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Landmark settlement increases access to federal parks

It's the first comprehensive settlement in the country that increases access for the disabled in a federal park system.
March 17, 2014 9:53:01 PM PDT
It's the first comprehensive settlement in the country that increases access for the disabled in a federal park system and it's at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Thirteen million people visit the GGNRA every year. The historic settlement will now make it possible for many more to enjoy the scenic beauty of the country's largest urban national park; those with mobility and vision disabilities.

People like Peter Mendoza. He was born with cerebral palsy and was a plaintiff in the suit.

"They're beautiful parks which everyone should enjoy and has a right to enjoy, including those with disabilities," he said.

The park sits on 75,000 acres. It stretches from San Mateo County to Marin County and encompasses 59 miles of bay and ocean shoreline. Under the settlement, the GGNRA will be required to launch specific projects.

Disability rights advocates lawyer Christine Chuang lists some of them.

"Things like making portions of trails accessible, providing beach wheelchairs at certain beaches so that people who use wheelchairs can get onto the sand and enjoy the beach that way," she said.

Some of the improvements have already been completed, but many more are planned.

"It is difficult to make every trail accessible, but at least where it is readily achievable, we want to access and it's important," said Mendoza. "Volunteers will be specially trained to explain different exhibits to people with disabilities who, for example, can't see or can't hear."

The settlement calls for the GGNRA to complete some 50 projects first, regardless of cost. Three million dollars will be dedicated to finish a secondary list of improvements over a seven year span.


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