Programmatic Accessibility Guidelines for National Park Service Interpretive Media
Version 2.3, May, 2017
Prepared by the Harpers Ferry Center Accessibility Committee
Table of Contents
About These Guidelines
Harpers Ferry Center
Audiovisual Programs and Tours
Audiovisual Guidelines: Mobility
Audiovisual Guidelines: Visual
Computer Interactive Programs
Audio Description Tours
Audiovisual Guidelines: Hearing
Currently Accepted Captioning Presentations
Other Captioning Presentations
Assistive Listening Systems (ALS)
Video Without Audio
Ranger (Docent)-Led Tours
Audiovisual Guidelines: Cognitive
Exhibits Guidelines: Mobility
Floor or Ground Surfaces
Touchable Exhibits--operated or manipulated with one hand
Touchable Exhibits--operated or manipulated with two hands
Railings and Barriers
Information and Work Surfaces
Seating--Interactive Stations/Work Areas
Mini-theaters within a museum exhibit area
Operable Parts of Interactive Exhibits
Exhibit Guidelines Visual
Computer Interactive Programs
Accessible Type by Probable Viewing Distance
Probable Viewing Distance
Interpretive exhibits minimum type size (Helvetica Regular)
X-height mm (in)
Set size (point)
Color and Contrast
Contracted (Grade 2) Braille:
Accessible Lighting Levels
Exhibits Guidelines: Hearing
Exhibits Guidelines: Cognitive
Exhibits Guidelines: Other
Letter, Line, and Word Spacing
Color and Contrast
Content and Layout
Publications Guidelines: Mobility
Publications Guidelines: Visual
Publications—Standard Print Size
Text (standard print size)/Fonts
Graphics (Standard Print Sizes)
Paper (Standard Print Sizes)
Publications (Large Print Size)
Text (large print size)
Graphics (large print size)
Color (large print size)
Paper (large print size)
Folds (large print size)
Maps--Standard Print Size
Maps--Large Print Size
Converting standard-print maps to large-print maps:
Electronic (Word Processing) Formats
Publications Guidelines: Hearing
Publications Guidelines: Cognitive
Wayside Exhibits Guidelines: Mobility
Wayside Exhibits Guidelines: Vision Loss
Wayside Exhibits Guidelines: Hearing
Wayside Exhibits Guidelines: Cognitive
Using language to describe people with disabilities
Accessibility Site Bulletins
Appendix A: Laws, Regulations, and Policies
Denver Service Center
Department of Interior
National Park Service
Appendix B: Accessibility Resources
Other Organizations General
Other Organizations Hearing
Other Organizations Vision
Other Organizations Cognitive
Appendix C: The Principles of Universal Design
Principle 1: Equitable Use
Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
Principle 4: Perceptible Information
Principle 5: Tolerance in Error
Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
Principle 7: Size and Space in Approach for Use
Appendix D: Alternative Media Formats
Appendix E: NPS Accessibility Pictograph Symbols
Version 2.3, May, 2017 Changes: A name under the acknowledgements section has been corrected.
Version 2.2, July, 2016 Changes: All page numbers have changed due to the reformatting of the document. In some cases, content was changed slightly if, for example, a web link was no longer valid or an image could be accessed directly from the original web source. Otherwise, this version remains the same as Version 2.1, February 2012.
Version 2.1, February 2012 Changes: Page 79 and page 101, “Appendix E: NPS Accessibility Pictograph Symbols,” are the only sections of the 2012 document that changed. All other sections are the same as Version 2.0, August 2009.
Prior to the October 2007 edition of these Guidelines, this document was titled _Special Populations: Programmatic Accessibility Guidelines for Interpretive Media_.
The Programmatic Accessibility Guidelines for National Park Service Interpretive Media is for media specialists, superintendents, and other National Park Service employees and contractors who develop and approve interpretive media. Publications, exhibits, audiovisual programs and tours, wayside exhibits, signage, and web-based media provide park visitors with information and context so that their experience of visiting national parks can be both safe and meaningful. Park visitors who have physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities have legally established civil rights to receive the same information and context that NPS interpretive media products have always provided to their fellow citizens. The following is an excerpt from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended:
No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.
Accountability is described in the following two excerpts from NPS Director’s Order #42: Accessibility for Visitors with Disabilities in National Park Service Programs and Services (November 3, 2000):
Superintendents ensure all of their programs, facilities, and services are accessible, in conformance with applicable laws, regulations, standards, and policies. Each superintendent ensures all new programs, facilities and services are designed, constructed and delivered in compliance with accessibility requirements.
The HFC is responsible for the overall management and direction of interpretive media . . . throughout the NPS. The HFC works to ensure that the highest level of accessibility that is reasonable is incorporated into all aspects of interpretive media, planning, design and construction. This includes ensuring that all new interpretive media are provided in such a way as to be accessible to and usable by all persons with a disability. It also means all existing practices and procedures are evaluated to determine the degree to which they are currently accessible to all visitors, and modifications are made to assure conformance with applicable laws and regulations.
Federal law and agency policy require the NPS to offer media accessible to a wide range of abilities. How the NPS can provide programmatic access in its interpretive efforts to communicate with people with disabilities is a challenging, complex, and confusing topic. We all need guidance about how to apply regulations, standards, and best practices servicewide.
These NPS Guidelines combine laws, policies, and best practices. They present highlights only; they are not comprehensive. “Appendix A: Laws, Regulations, and Policies” tells where to find the full text of the laws and regulations that NPS decision-makers are responsible for following.
Although we organize the guidelines by media product for ease of use, NPS employees recognize that no interpretive media product works alone. Media products are interdependent and each has inherent strengths and weaknesses. Park visitors sample and benefit from an array of interpretive media.
These Guidelines describe design and presentation solutions that are acceptable in most interpretive media situations. The Guidelines acknowledge that those who create and review interpretive media must be flexible and versatile because park resources and circumstances are so diverse. No document can prescribe solutions for every situation that arises in the National Park System.
Director, Center for
National Park Service
W. Kay Ellis
National Park Service
Successful interpretive programmatic accessibility begins with parkwide comprehensive interpretive planning—so that all media can work together. Where one medium may not be accessible to all persons, other media can fill the gaps. Early recognition of, and sensitivity to, accessibility issues will result in the most successful visitor experience.
Interpretive planning develops goal-driven communications strategies to enhance visitor experiences in parks. The basic interpretive planning document is the Long-Range Interpretive Plan (LRIP). Its three parts: 1) Develop overall goals; 2) assess current conditions; and 3) recommend personal services, interpretive media and facilities, and partnership programs.
Although not design documents, LRIPs should provide overall guidance on accessibility strategies and priorities for the park. Existing conditions in the park should be assessed with respect to accessibility for diverse audiences. Recommendations shall follow accessibility guidelines and describe a strategy for providing access to essential services, information, and experiences to diverse audiences with different abilities.
In interpretive planning documents or those documents that include interpretation or interpretive media, accessibility must be included as part of the plan and not just as “boiler plate” that states that the NPS will comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
NPS 2006 Management Policies directs that designs for park facilities “… will also be subject throughout all phases of design and construction to the same code compliance; the same high standards of sustainable design, universal design, and functionality; and the same review and approval processes.” and that they will “... incorporate universal design principles to provide for accessibility for all people, including those with disabilities… .” (See “Appendix C: The Principles of Universal Design.”)
In the earliest stage of any project, all planning shall be guided by Universal Design principles. Most important is Principle One: Equitable Use, where the same experience can be provided for all users, without segregating or stigmatizing others with special accommodations or the need to ask for the special accommodations. Certain basic assumptions shall be made in the planning process:
For information on accessible planning documents, see “Publications. Guidelines: Visual, Reports.”
Use Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards (ABAAS) Chapters 1 and 2 to determine what interpretive media and facilities are needed: new, old, alterations, temporary, permanent facilities, ratios, minimum requirements, and more.
The provisions of ABAAS Technical Chapters 3 through 10 shall apply where required by ABAAS, ABA Chapter 2 or where referenced by a requirement elsewhere in ABAAS.
Planners need to extrapolate intent from ABAAS to exhibit design. Because so many interpretive exhibits are unique in their design or method of display, the usual methods of accommodating people with disabilities will require the design professionals to apply the standards/technical provisions for viewing height, reach ranges, and operation of any exhibit component individually. In most instances, standards are basic and usually are for physical access by an adult wheelchair user. The needs of persons with other types of disabilities need to be considered as well as the needs of children and small adults with disabilities.
Project budgets must include accessibility needs from the beginning of planning. Retrofitting is far more expensive.
Harpers Ferry Center works with the National Park Service Social Science Program to gather useful knowledge about park visitors and the public. HFC’s goal is to acquire a better understanding of audiences, which ultimately helps planners and designers create more effective interpretive media. Another goal is to make media evaluations and evaluation resources accessible to parks and contractors who are working on interpretive media projects throughout the National Park System. Traditionally, there are three stages during which formal visitor studies, or evaluations, are conducted.
Front-end evaluation is conducted during the beginning of a project, when themes, storylines, and program ideas are being considered. Front-end evaluation concentrates on getting input from potential visitors by means of interviews and/or focus groups, to find out what kinds of information they need and would like to know, and how this information could be presented in a meaningful, interesting, and cost-effective way. Misconceptions about the subject matter are also revealed at this stage, often leading to specific content and presentation elements designed to counter them.
Formative Evaluation is conducted before the fabrication of interpretive media, when mock-up testing can be carried out. Formative evaluation is intended to “catch” design, content, and/or accessibility problems before they become a part of the final interpretive media, when they are often difficult and expensive to fix.
Summative/Remedial Evaluation is conducted after final media production, when the total “package” can be evaluated and final adjustments can be made. In a comprehensive evaluation program, the conduct of summative/remedial studies often reveals problems that were not, or could not be, identified during the earlier stages of development. For example, crowd-flow problems are often revealed only when the actual configuration of all the elements of the exhibition are in place. Similarly, orientation and signage problems become “obvious” at this point, and can often be corrected by relatively minor adjustments to wording and/or placement.
Audiovisual products give voice and vision to park interpretive themes. Voices from the past can speak, inaccessible peaks can be climbed, and complex processes can be revealed through this powerful medium. High-definition surround-sound theater presentations, audio and video museum elements, oral history recordings, multi-channel soundscapes, computer interactive programs, audio tours, ranger-led tours, audio and video podcasts, downloadable files, and interactive web features are all examples of the ways that the NPS combines sound with images to inform and inspire.
The NPS has adopted a policy of on-screen open captions or Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH); audio description; and assistive listening systems. Still more work needs to be done. Comparatively few NPS theaters show videos that are audio described, for example. Some technical challenges may make providing captioning, audio description, and assistive listening systems difficult. The bigger challenge is to add these elements at the project’s end. Always plan accessibility elements from the beginning, never at the end.
Captioning, audio description, and assistive listening systems shall be identified early in any plan for any audiovisual element intended to be used in a unit of the National Park System. These standards apply even to products given to the NPS by an outside entity. For example, AV programs donated to parks must have captioning, audio description, and assistive listening systems provided regardless of source. These AV elements must also be maintained so that all parts of the presentation function properly.
Park managers will continue to have the final say on the most appropriate AV solution for providing full programmatic accessibility for AV products used at their sites.
ABAAS Figure 802.2.1.1
Lines of Sight Over the Heads of Seated Spectators
ABAAS Figure 802.2.2.1
Lines of Sight Over the Heads of Standing Spectators
Simultaneous audio description shall be provided. Audio description describes the visual content of video or multimedia programs. It provides individuals who are visually impaired with information that further describes the visual content not provided in the primary audio track. Audio description is a separate audio track synchronized with the program’s primary audio track. An audio description narrator describes actions, gestures, scene changes, and other visual information. The narrator also describes titles, speaker names, and other text that may appear on the screen. Audio description shall be carefully scripted and produced by trained professionals.
The audio description is recorded on a separate audio track and is not heard over the main loudspeaker(s). Visitors requesting audio description will typically receive a headset and receiver. The audio description track is then transmitted to the headset via a radio frequency or infrared signal. Only those with headsets will hear the audio description track.
For technical requirements, see the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, Section 508.
Audio description tours can be part of a larger interpretive tour or serve as a standalone alternative format. If the audio description is part of a larger audio interpretive tour, a separate track is recommended.
Ideally the device should not require visual cues, like a numeric system. However, should visual cues be used, Braille, a tactile indication on the touchpad that orients the user, or an audio prompt for a numeric selection are acceptable.
For more information, see “Audiovisual Guidelines: Hearing, Audio Tours.”
All audiovisual programs with spoken dialogue shall be open-captioned, and the captions shall be displayed at all times. Captions display spoken dialogue as printed words on television screens, computer monitors, projection screens, caption boards, and other visual displays. Captions are designed to enable viewers with hearing loss to participate fully when viewing video or multimedia productions without self-identifying.
All captions shall be produced to include identification of speakers and information regarding on- and off-screen nonverbal sound effects. Text indicating sound effects, such as “phone ringing,” “footsteps,” or “laughter,” as well as symbols indicating other sounds like music, should be used. Captions also benefit people learning a foreign language, learning how to read, or watching TV in a noisy area, and people who understand best by processing visual information.
The Department of the Interior requires that all new programs created after January 2009 be produced with open captions or subtitles (SDH) that are displayed on screen at all times. Programs created with closed captions before this date can continue closed-captioned programs, but the closed captions must be opened and displayed on screen or on a caption board at all times.
Always displayed, on-screen open captions help visitors who would otherwise not ask for this accessibility feature. This requirement reduces the amount of equipment required for playback, lowers the initial purchasing costs, and saves time and money required for troubleshooting, repairing, and replacing equipment.
“Captions” is a term often used generically. But there are different techniques and approaches to producing captions that are important to note. As noted the Department of the Interior requires that captions be displayed on screen. The following two production approaches meet the department’s requirements.
It is important to be familiar with other captioning techniques and approaches when discussing the final captioning format. Older productions using these techniques and approaches may still may be found at National Park System sites. Following are descriptions of these caption types.
HFC recommends the following general caption-production specifications:
Printed scripts are NOT an acceptable alternative to the required open captioning. However, visitors may want to see a verbatim script to prepare for their visit or while at the park. As a standard procedure, copies of scripts shall be provided to parks and shall be available—in standard and in large print size—to visitors upon request. The scripts should also be available on the website. (See “Publications.”)
An assistive listening system is an amplification system utilizing transmitters, receivers, and coupling devices to bypass the acoustical space between a sound source and a listener by means of induction loop, radio frequency (commonly known as an FM system), infrared, or direct-wired equipment. (from ABAAS F106.5)
These systems and their coupling devices, known as assistive listening devices (ALDs), amplify the volume and bring the sound directly to a person’s ear.
Assistive listening systems and audio amplification shall be provided. (See ABAAS F219 thru F219.3.) There are a number of assistive listening systems and device configurations available that can be tailored to each space requirement. Visitors will be given receivers, known as ALDs, with headsets or neckloops when radio frequency (FM) or infrared (IR) transmitters are used to distribute the audio signal. Both headsets and neckloops must be available unless an induction loop is used.
Induction loop systems use an electromagnetic coil to create a magnetic field. People who use hearing aids or cochlear implants with a T-coil can receive the sound directly by switching their hearing aid to the “T” position. No additional devices are needed. Receivers with headsets shall be available for people without a T-coil, who do not wear hearing aids, or do not have a cochlear implant.
The National Park Service does not recommend the use of ear bud style headsets because they are difficult for people with hearing aids to use and are difficult to keep sanitary.
Audio equipment used individually by the visitor, including, but not limited to, telephone handsets, headsets, and sound sticks, must have individual volume controls and be T-coil compatible.
All companies that claim their devices are T-coil compatible should be required to submit documentation to substantiate this claim.
All video programs containing no audio shall be identified with a label or caption that states there is no audio.
These tours shall be integrated as a part of the on-site interpretive experience visitors receive.
Audio delivery devices must have an option for operation that is easy to use, relatively passive, and hands-free or have a hands-free option so that visitors can use their hands to explore, for example, tactile exhibits. Also, some people learn best through touch.
Cell phones are sometimes used as an audio tour delivery system. This can be a problem if visitors have to use their own cell phones. Besides the cost to the user, some people with disabilities rely on cell phones to maintain their independence and must avoid depleting the batteries through nonessential use. If the cell phone is used to provide both an interpretive and audio description tour, an alternative format shall be considered, such as a wand or a cell phone that can be checked out from the visitor center.
When audio tours are available, both headsets and neckloop couplers shall be available and appropriate signage shall be posted.
Many of the audio guides are T-coil compatible, so neckloops are only necessary when a hands-free version is needed. (See ALS above.)
Transcripts of the audio tour shall be available in standard and large-print size formats.
Interpretive programs provide opportunities for visitors to make emotional and intellectual connections to park resources, mission, and interpretive themes. Personal services are ranger-led programs such as guided tours, talks, demonstrations, illustrated programs, conducted activities, and curriculum-based programs.
Ranger-led tours shall be hands-free or have a hands-free option so that visitors can use their hands to explore, for example, tactile exhibits.
FM systems are ideal for ranger-led tours in noisy environments or spaces with poor acoustics. Even visitors without hearing loss can benefit from FM systems in such environments.
Receivers shall have both headset and neckloop couplers available.
Transcripts of the tour shall be available in standard and large-print size formats.
Qualified sign language (and cued speech) interpreters shall be available for scheduled and/or announced tours and/or upon request with reasonable advance notice. A qualified interpreter is one who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.
Narrations for visitors with cognitive disabilities are the same as for visitors without cognitive disabilities. There is no separate audio track.
For more information, see “Exhibits Guidelines: Cognitive.”
HFC provides professional conservation services that ensure the long-term preservation of museum objects in national park collections. Preservation and conservation of the important cultural resources of the NPS require expert and highly skilled specialists. At HFC, conservators work meticulously to preserve and restore objects of social and cultural significance. They work on diverse materials ranging from fine and decorative art objects to natural history specimens.
For more information, visit .Harpers Ferry Center's Artifact Conservation Web Page
The HFC Conservation staff:
For information on accessible conservation planning documents, see “Publications. Guidelines: Visual, Reports.”
Exhibits are multi-media experiences. Because people learn in many ways, exhibits use diverse techniques to interpret park resources, teach concepts, and stimulate interest. Exhibits tell stories using objects, text, images, multimedia, interactive devices, figures, models, and lighting effects. Successful exhibits communicate to the visitor the significance and context of artifacts that the NPS has chosen to collect, conserve, and display.
Visitors are free to move through exhibits at their own pace. They may often interact physically with exhibits and learn by doing. The goal is not only to educate but to inspire. Display items range from tools and weapons to the art of prehistoric and historic American cultures. Webs of life in our natural habitats are shown with plant and animal models. Illustrations complete stories and set them in larger contexts. Art is used to reconstruct early events for which no visual material exists.
Exhibits sometimes must be put in places ill-suited to their purpose. Pre-existing architectural structure or décor may limit many exhibit design decisions. Because the situations encountered in NPS exhibit spaces are so diverse, thoughtful, sensitive design can go a long way to produce NPS exhibits that can be enjoyed by a broad range of people.
For more information, visit Harpers Ferry Center's Exhibits and Museums Web Page .
See ABAAS 302 Building Blocks
ABAAS Figure 302.2
Carpet Pile Height
ABAAS Figure 303.3
Beveled Changes in Level
ABAAS Figure 305.5
Position of Clear Floor or Ground Space
ABAAS Figure 305.7.1
Maneuvering Clearance in an Alcove, Forward Approach
ABAAS Figure 305.7.2
Maneuvering Clearance in an Alcove, Parallel Approach
The exhibit space should be free of architectural barriers. If, for example, an exhibit is in an inaccessible area of a historic structure, at least one method of alternative accommodations shall be provided. If the inaccessible space is of crucial interpretive significance to the site, an alternative method of accommodation shall be provided. (See “Interpretive Planning Guidelines” and “Appendix D: Alternative Media Formats.”)
ABAAS Figure 403.5.1
Clear Width of an Accessible Route
ABAAS Figure 304.3.2
T-Shaped Turning Space
See ABAAS 307, Building Blocks, Protruding Objects
ABAAS Figure 307.2
Limits of Protruding Objects
ABAAS Figure 307.3
Post-Mounted Protruding Objects
ABAAS Figure 307.4
The following reach ranges refer to items briefly touched with one hand, such as a push button or small, tactile bas-relief model fastened to a panel or reader rail.
NPS Modified ABAAS Figure 308.2.1
Unobstructed Forward Reach. Accessible to adults and children ages 9 and above.
NPS Modified ABAAS Figure 308.2.2
Unobstructed High Forward Reach. Accessible to adults and children ages 9 and above.
NPS Modified ABAAS Figure 308.3.1
Unobstructed Side Reach. Accessible to adults and children ages 9 and above.
NPS Modified ABAAS Figure 308.3.2.
High Side Reach. Accessible to adults and children ages 9 and above.
The following reach range refers to more detailed, complex, large, tactile interactive exhibits which may contain braille, raised lettering, bas-relief sculpting, various textures, and may include switches or buttons to activate multimedia such as audio programs. The visitor should be able to use both hands simultaneously to interact with the exhibit.
California State Parks Accessibility Guidelines Figure 18-1,
Flat mounted Tactile Exhibit
Information desks and sales counters shall include a section made to accommodate both a visitor in a wheelchair and an employee in a wheelchair working on the other side. A section of the desk/counter shall have the dimensions specified below.
ABAAS Figure 306.2
ABAAS Figure 306.3
When the exhibit incorporates a short multimedia presentation, like a video, in a mini-theater with bench seating (see ABAAS 903.3 and 903.6, Built-In Elements/Benches, Size & Structural Strength for information), space shall be provided for at least one visitor in a wheelchair.
ABAAS Figure 802.1.2
Width of Wheelchair Spaces in Assembly Areas
ABAAS Figure 802.1.3
Depth of Wheelchair Spaces in Assembly Areas
For technical requirements, see the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, Section 508.
Accessible Type by Probable Viewing Distance
Probable Viewing Distance
Interpretive exhibits minimum type size (Helvetica Regular)
X-height mm (in)
Set size (point)
Less than 75 mm (3 in)
1 m (39 in)
2 m (78 in)
3 m (118 in)
Courtesy Parks Canada, Design Guidelines for Media Accessibility
For people with low vision, adequate lighting is essential.
Accessible Lighting Levels
4.65 - 27.9
9.3 - 27.9
18.6 - 27.9
9.3 - 27.9
9.3 - 27.9
9.3 - 27.9
Courtesy Parks Canada, Design Guidelines for Media Accessibility
Audio description of the museum exhibit as a whole is strongly encouraged and, in many instances, may be required to facilitate effective communication per Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. (See “Appendix A: Laws, Regulations, and Policies.”)
Frequently, audio description has been used to provide accessibility to exhibits rather than to make the exhibits themselves accessible. Audio description in general, and audio guidance in particular, is only one of many ways to make exhibits accessible. It is not the only solution to consider when planning, designing, and producing accessible exhibits. Audio description should be used for both accessible and inaccessible components of exhibits.
Approachable photographs: Some people have difficulty seeing a large exhibit, mural, or architectural feature in its entirety. Consider providing an approachable photograph of the full scene (courtesy of Design Guidelines for Media Accessibility, by Parks Canada).
Audio components of exhibits may include products like excerpts from oral histories, visitor-selected sound effects of wildlife, and ambient sound that fills the entire room. These components shall accommodate people who are deaf or hard of hearing by providing assistive listening systems and either open captions displayed at all times or some form of printed alternatives. A printed alternative is only appropriate if the person does not need to look at a specific place at a specific time.
Text and narrations for visitors with cognitive disabilities are the same as for visitors without cognitive disabilities. There is no separate audio track.
Historically refurnished rooms offer a unique interpretive experience by placing visitors in historic spaces. Surrounded by historic artifacts visitors can feel the spaces “come alive” and can relate more directly to the historic events or personalities the park commemorates.
Access to historic furnishings for people with disabilities is an integral part of the visitor experience at NPS sites and is a significant component of programmatic access. Yet accessibility is a challenge in many furnished sites because of the nature of historic architecture. Buildings were erected with a functional point of view at odds with modern standards of accessibility.
Often, reproductions are used to refurnish an historic space. This is an opportunity to provide tactile experiences. Reproducing essential furniture pieces may enable a person who is visually impaired to benefit and participate in the understanding of the historic period or the historic personage.
The approach used to convey the experience of historically furnished spaces will vary from site to site. The goals remain the same: to give the public as rich an interpretive experience as possible given the limitations of the structure.
The NPS Sign Program, managed by HFC, provides parks with assistance in developing comprehensive sign plans and in purchasing a wide range of sign types:
Motorist Guidance Signs provide directions to motorists that help them get to parks and to move around within them. Traffic regulatory signs (stop, yield, curve, speed limit, parking, etc.) help ensure that traffic moves smoothly and safely.
Park Identity Signs identify a park entrance and major destinations within a park. They are designed to be consistent with NPS standards and to reflect the unique character of a park.
Visitor Information Signs (VIS) provide general information to visitors or information about regulations, resource protection, interpretation, or safety. In addition to signs, the system also includes bulletin cases, brochure dispensers, trash bag dispensers, campsite permit displays, and campsite registration cabinets and other hardware.
Park signs are more successful if they are not ordered individually in a haphazard way, but are the result of a deliberate and well-documented sign communication strategy. A sign plan developed for an entire park, or for a selected area within a park, will help visitors get the information they need to make decisions about their park experiences in a more logical manner. Using standardized designs will reduce confusion and eliminate many visual and intellectual roadblocks to good visual communication.
For more information on the NPS Sign Program and the NPS UniGuide Sign Standards please visit: www.hfc.nps.gov/uniguide
(available only to computers on the NPS network).
Typefaces for the UniGuide Standards were selected for their high legibility. Based on SEGD recommendations, two classic faces were chosen: the sans-serif face Frutiger, initially designed for ease of reading on road guide signs, and Rawlinson (and its variation NPS Roadway) which was developed specifically for the National Park Service. Tests on Rawlinson show that it is a very readable font.
Although decorative fonts appeal to some because of their historic reference, they are to be avoided. Variations of Rawlinson and Frutiger (e.g., light, extra bold, condensed, expanded, italic, etc.) are generally to be avoided. In keeping with SEGD guidelines, words of all uppercase letters should be used sparingly because they are difficult to read.
Type sizes used in the UniGuide Standards range from 30-point on signs in the Visitor Information System up to 9 inches on Motorist Guidance and Park Identity Signs.
Regardless of type size, to be easily read the text must have sufficient space between characters, words, and lines. The default settings for both Rawlinson and Frutiger in the UniGuide Standards provide ample letter and word spacing; line spacing may be adjusted according to the type of sign and length of text.
UniGuide Standards provide layout grids that help avoid text lines that are too long or too short. Paragraphs are distinguished by an open line space between them rather than by indenting. Text is set in a flush-left alignment and hyphens are seldom used, again based on SEGD recommendations.
Generally, the higher the contrast between type and its background, the more readable the type. According to the SEGD, contrast may be achieved by black text on a light background or white text on a dark background. UniGuide Standards prescribe either black or white type; other colors are used sparingly for emphasis or to designate specific subjects. Backgrounds are typically dark or mid-tones; white backgrounds create glare and are to be avoided.
For more information, see “Publications Guidelines: Visual, Publications—Standard print size, Text, Contrast.”
SEGD guidelines state that “information (layouts) should follow clear hierarchical patterns, and the elements . . . should be sensibly located and follow logical progressions.” Informational signs in the UniGuide Standards present information in easily understood sequences, beginning with a headline, continuing with a text block that briefly presents the sign’s subject or purpose, and concluding with more details, supplemented by illustrations and symbols as appropriate. Purely decorative elements are avoided so that text is presented in clearly defined blocks, again based on SEGD guidelines.
For more information about signage accessibility, see “Promoting Accessibility.”
The official park brochures and handbooks developed by HFC are known for their reliability, thoroughness, visual appeal, and standard design elements that contribute to NPS graphic identity. The most traditional of the various media, publications remain a core element in a park’s interpretive program. As park visitation increases and personal services decrease, the on-site portability of publications give visitors significant interpretive, logistical, and safety information. Publications are the one interpretive medium visitors can take with them as a souvenir and handy home reference. Because publications offer a wide range of information, especially safety, it is critical that people with disabilities receive the same information—of the same quality—as other visitors.
Parks and other NPS offices produce other types of publications for the public. Site bulletins provide more specialized information about a specific site or topic. Park newspapers give visitors access to seasonal or temporary topical information not appropriate for the official park brochure. Planning documents like historic furnishings reports, interpretive plans, general management plans, and conservation reports provide specialized information for park operations and interpretation.
Official park brochures shall list services and facilities available for persons with disabilities (such as TTY phone numbers) and describe significant barriers. Parks can take this a step further by producing a specialized Accessibility Site Bulletin with more detailed information pertinent to visitors with disabilities. A template for this type of site bulletin will be posted on the NPS Graphic Identity Program website. See www.graphics.nps.gov (available only to computers on the NPS network). Note that these site bulletins should be in large print size—18 point minimum—and follow the large print size criteria below.
Publications that are considered “readily available,” like the official park brochure, newspaper, and site bulletins, must also be provided in all alternative formats—Contracted (Grade 2) Braille, large print, audio description, and electronic (word processing format on the Internet and disc). To estimate the quantity of each format to keep on hand, determine the percentage of total park visitors needing each format and anticipate how long each format edition will remain current.
Like the standard-size publication that is given to visitors to keep, alternative format publication users may permanently keep their publications.
For publications that must be ordered, the same turnaround time is required as for standard print publications.
The HFC Editorial Style Guide is a valuable resource for promoting clarity and consistency in publications, which are essential elements of universal accessibility. (See www.nps.gov/hfc. Click “HFC Style Guide.”)
For more information, visit www.nps.gov/hfc/products/pubs.
Examples of accessible sans serif fonts include Arial, Frutiger 55 and 65, Helvetica (regular and bold), Univers 55 and Futura. Examples of accessible serif fonts include NPS Rawlinson, Century, Time Roman and New Century Schoolbook. See visual examples below.
Examples of of non-accessible sans-serif fonts are Helvetica (light and black) and Univers 45. Examples of non-accessible serif fonts are NPS Rawlinson italic (can be used for occasional scientific name, small quote, etc.), Time bold, New Century Schoolbook (Bold), Decorative, Script, Eccentric STD and Brush Std. See visual examples below.
Maps are an important component of orientation, wherever the orientation takes place—information desk, brochure, indoor or outdoor exhibits, or website. Some maps focus on important park features, while others provide topographical information. Still others give interpretive information. People with disabilities must receive the same benefit as people without disabilities.
Produced primarily for visitors with low vision.
For a prototype large-print map, visit www.nps.gov/hfc/carto and select “Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park” (CHOH). Compare to the standard print size. The specifications for these maps may be obtained by downloading the Adobe Illustrator files and checking the attributes within the file.
A template of an NPS large-print brochure and map is posted on the NPS Graphic Identity website, www.graphics.nps.gov/templates.cfm (available only to computers on the NPS network).
Color blindness: People with color blindness cannot distinguish colors in the way that those with normal vision can. The condition is most commonly inherited. Red/green color blindness is by far the most common form of this condition.
Adobe and Microsoft have made efforts to accommodate blind and visually impaired people who need to read documents generated by their specialized software. Companies’ efforts to work with assistive technology vendors to resolve compatibility issues have been somewhat successful. Accessible documents in Microsoft’s Reader format or in Adobe PDF must be constructed in very specific ways, be created with particular settings enabled, and generated in this file format. It is risky to assume that everyone can open a Microsoft Word document and follow guidelines that Adobe and Microsoft each outline. To get started with producing Adobe documents, see the booklet “How To Create Accessible Adobe PDF Files.” For information about creating accessible Microsoft Reader® files, see “ Microsoft Reader—Accessibility Frequently Asked Questions.”
In addition to being sure that documents meet these criteria, a company should be aware that blind or visually impaired people must have technology that conforms to Microsoft’s requirements, they must have downloaded Microsoft’s Reader software, and they must have it configured to read accessible texts. In order to read Adobe’s PDF documents, people must again have the most up-to-date assistive technology software, and they must install and configure the necessary Adobe plug-in. Even accessible documents in these formats do not always allow for maximum flexibility and user preferences with respect to reading, printing, or portability.
So, while these documents can and should be made available in a specialized format to those people who choose to use them in that format, offering another universally accessible document-type, such as HTML or plain text, is advisable. Though specialized formats allow the document to be read by sighted people exactly as intended, these formats are not nearly as useful and friendly to blind readers.
Wayside exhibits are large-format outdoor sign-like exhibits that the National Park Service employs either to orient visitors arriving to a new location, or to reveal the stories hidden in the view. These panels combine photographs, artwork, diagrams or maps, and texts that are written to be easy to read aloud. The goal is both to describe the landscape and to reveal the significance of an outdoor place being preserved as part of the National Park System.
To make sense, waysides must be placed where a particular story intersects a particular view. Most NPS waysides are installed at trailheads, vistas, overlooks, or along front-country trails. Since NPS waysides are usually near sidewalks, hardened-surface trails, and parking areas, most are accessible to wheelchair users. But some waysides will be inaccessible to visitors with limited mobility, due to rough trail conditions and grades.
NPS managers and interpreters must constantly keep in mind that standard waysides provide little benefit to visitors who cannot see. Old-style audio message repeaters that the NPS formerly installed alongside waysides have not solved this problem because the hardware often fails outdoors. Audio technologies are emerging that can provide visitors who are blind or visually impaired access to the information that waysides deliver. While these guidelines may not specify the exact method, some method is required to make waysides accessible to visitors who are blind or visually impaired.
Because waysides are outdoors, color choices in panel design matter. Glare from sunlight must be avoided. Constant exposure to strong sunlight fogs and fades ink pigments so that lettering falls below legibility limits. Program accessibility is not just a matter of installing accessible waysides. Wayside exhibits are a prime example of an why an NPS program must be maintained in order for it to continue to be accessible. A regular inspection and panel replacement routine will keep waysides looking their best and solve many legibility problems.
Providing arriving visitors with basic orientation to an NPS site is a program; therefore it must be available to all visitors and delivered in an equitable fashion.
Good waysides should direct attention to the features they interpret, not to themselves. Writing should be focused and compressed. Waysides that work best avoid complex topics and multiple layers of information. Graphic elements must be organized to be powerful enough to draw visitors into the story.
For more information, visit www.nps.gov/hfc/products/waysides/way-process-access.htm. (See “NPS Wayside Exhibit Map Standards” and “NPS Wayside Exhibit Typographic Standards.”)
Web-based media are pages published on the Internet. The NPS uses them to give virtual visitors orientation and interpretive information about the national park programs and sites. Like publications and waysides, web pages combine photographs, artwork, diagrams, maps, and easy-to-read text.
All federal websites must comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, chapter 1194.22, “Web-based intranet and internet information and applications” published by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (December 21, 2000). Section 508 requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.
Good web-based media should follow these principles of accessible website design:
Building an audience takes time. Once a facility or program is accessible, promote it! Provide information on how to obtain these services. Also, include phone contact information for visitors with questions.
The official park brochure, park newspaper and the like shall provide information as to where to find a list of services, explain alternative formats and facilities available for persons with disabilities, and describe significant barriers. This should be prominently displayed in the publication.
Each park shall produce a site bulletin on the topic of accessibility—what is accessible at the park. (See “Publications.”)
Name bar of sign language interpreter
Training NPS staff, volunteers, park partners, and others
The National Park Service is committed to providing interpretive media that are accessible to all potential users. Media shall be planned, designed, fabricated, and installed consistent with the following laws, regulations, and policies that govern accessibility in interpretive media.
When there is a difference among the laws, policies, internal directives, etc., use the guideline that is more strict.
Americans with Disabilities Act and Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines (same as Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards, ABAAS). Federal facilities must adhere to ABA Chapters 1–10.
While the Architectural Barriers Act requires physical access to buildings and facilities, Section 504 requires program accessibility for all services provided with Federal dollars. This extends the scope of access to individuals with cognitive and sensory disabilities, in addition to those with mobility impairments. This requires that we have a broader understanding of the way various populations of individuals with disabilities receive and process information and the wide range of methods and techniques needed to ensure that we are effectively communicating with them. These methods and techniques include, but are not limited to, the use of qualified sign language interpreters (and cued speech), captions on audiovisual programs, assistive listening devices, readers for people with visual impairments, audio and Braille versions of printed information, and other advances such as computer technology.
Sec. 17.549 Program accessibility: Discrimination prohibited.
Except as otherwise provided in Sec. 17.550, no qualified handicapped person shall, because the agency’s facilities are inaccessible to or unusable by handicapped persons, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity conducted by the agency.
Sec. 17.550 Program accessibility: Existing facilities.
(a) General. The agency shall operate each program or activity so that the program or activity, when viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons. This paragraph does not–
(1) Necessarily require the agency to make each of its existing facilities or every part of a facility accessible to and usable by handicapped persons;
(2) In the case of historic preservation programs, require the agency to take any action that would result in a substantial impairment of significant historic features of an historic property; or
(3) Require the agency to take any action that it can demonstrate would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a program or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens. In those circumstances where agency personnel believe that the proposed action would fundamentally alter the program or activity or would result in undue financial and administrative burdens, the agency has the burden of proving that compliance with Sec. 17.550 (a) would result in such an alteration or burdens. The decision that compliance would result in such alteration or burdens must be made by the agency head or his or her designee after considering all agency resources available for use in the funding and operation of the conducted program or activity, and must be accompanied by a written statement of the reasons for reaching that conclusion. If an action would result in such an alteration or such burdens, the agency shall take any other action that would not result in such an alteration or such burdens but would nevertheless ensure that handicapped persons receive the benefits and services of the program or activity.
(1) General. The agency may comply with the requirements of this section through such means as redesign of equipment, reassignment of services to accessible locations, assignment of aides to beneficiaries, home visits, delivery of services at alternate accessible sites, alteration of existing facilities and construction of new facilities, use of accessible rolling stock, or any other methods that result in making its programs or activities readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons. The agency is not required to make structural changes in existing facilities where other methods are effective in achieving compliance with this section. The agency, in making alterations to existing buildings, shall meet accessibility requirements to the extent compelled by the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4151-4157) and any regulations implementing it. In choosing among available methods for meeting the requirements of this section, the agency shall give priority to those methods that offer programs and activities to qualified handicapped persons in the most integrated setting appropriate.
(2) Historic preservation programs. In meeting the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section in historic preservation programs, the agency shall give priority to methods that provide physical access to handicapped persons. In cases where a physical alteration to an historic property is not required because of paragraph (a)(2) or (a)(3) of this section, alternative, methods of achieving program accessibility include–
(i) Using audio-visual materials and devices to depict those portions of an historic property that cannot otherwise be made accessible.
(ii) Assigning persons to guide handicapped persons into or through portions of historic properties that cannot otherwise be made accessible; or
(iii) Adopting other innovative methods.
(3) Recreation programs. In meeting the requirements of paragraph (a) in recreation programs, the agency shall provide that the program or activity, when viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons. When it is not reasonable to alter natural and physical features, accessibility may be achieved by alternative methods as noted in paragraph (b)(1) of this section.
(c) Time period for compliance. The agency shall comply with the obligations established under this section within sixty (60) days of the effective date of this part except that where structural changes in facilities are necessary, such changes shall be made within three years of the effective date of this part, but in any event as expeditiously as possible.
(d) Transition plan. In the event that structural changes to facilities are necessary to achieve program accessibility, the agency shall develop, within six months of the effective date of this part, a transition plan setting forth the steps necessary to complete such changes. The plan shall be developed with the assistance of interested persons, including handicapped persons or organizations representing handicapped persons. A copy of the transition plan shall be made available for public inspection. The plan shall, at a minimum–
(1) Identify physical obstacles in the agency’s facilities that
limit the accessibility of its programs or activities to handicapped
(2) Describe in detail the methods that will be used to make the
(3) Specify the schedule for taking the steps necessary to achieve
compliance with this section and, if the time period of the transition plan is longer than one year, identify steps that will be taken during each year of the transition period;
(4) Indicate the official responsible for implementation of the
(5) Identify the persons or groups with whose assistance the plan was prepared.
Sec. 17.551 Program accessibility: New construction and alterations.
by, on behalf of, or for the use of the agency shall be designed, constructed, or altered so as to be readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons. The definitions, requirements, and standards of the Architectural Barriers Act (42 U.S.C. 4151-4157) as established in 41 CFR 101-19.600 to 101-19.607 apply to buildings covered by this section.
Sec. 17.552-17.559 [Reserved]
Sec. 17.560 Communications.
(a) The agency shall take appropriate steps to ensure effective communication with applicants, participants, personnel of other Federal entities, and members of the public.
(1) The agency shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids where necessary to afford a handicapped person an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a program or activity conducted by the agency.
(i) In determining what type of auxiliary aid is necessary, the agency shall give primary consideration to the requests of the handicapped person.
(ii) The agency need not provide individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, attendant services, or other devices of a personal nature.
(2) Where the agency communicate with applicants and beneficiaries by telephone, telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD’s) or equally effective telecommunication systems shall be used.
(b) The agency shall ensure that interested persons, including persons with impaired vision or hearing, can obtain information as to the existence and location of accessible services, activities, and facilities.
(c) The agency shall provide signage at a primary entrance to each
of its inaccessible facilities, directing users to a location at which they can obtain information about accessible facilities. The international symbol for accessibility shall be used at each primary entrance of an accessible facility.
(d) This section does not require the agency to take any action that it can demonstrate would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a program or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens. In those circumstances where agency personnel believe that the proposed action would fundamentally alter the program or activity or would result in undue financial and administrative burdens, the agency has the burden of proving that compliance with Sec. 17.560 would result in such alteration or burdens. The decision that compliance would result in such alteration or burdens must be made by the agency head or his or her designee after considering all agency resources available for use in the funding and operation of the conducted program or activity, and must be accompanied by a written statement of the reasons for reaching that conclusion. If an action required to comply with this section would result in such alteration or such burdens, the agency shall take any other action that would not result in such an alteration or such burdens but would nevertheless ensure that, to the maximum extent possible, handicapped persons receive the benefits and services of the program or activity.
The Department of the Interior’s Section 504—Subpart E—Enforcement of Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Handicap in Programs or Activities Conducted by the Department of the Interior can be accessed in its entirety online.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires that all Federal agencies ensure that when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, it is accessible to employees with disabilities. It also requires that individuals with disabilities who are seeking information or services from Federal agencies have access to and use of all information provided. Electronic and information technology is expansively defined. It includes computers (such as hardware, software, and accessible data such as web pages), facsimile machines, copiers, telephones, and other equipment used for transmitting, receiving, using, or storing information.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, applies specifically to web-based media, audio tours, audiovisual programs, and other media incorporating these electronic elements.
The following is an excerpt from the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board [36CFR Part 1194 published in the Federal Register on December 21, 2000]:
§ 1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications.
(a) A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via “alt”, “longdesc”, or in element content).
(b) Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.
(c) Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.
(d) Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.
(e) Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.
(f) Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.
(g) Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.
(h) Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.
(i) Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.
(j) Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.
(k) A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a web site comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.
(l) When pages utilize scripting languages to display content, or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.
(m) When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with §1194.21(a) through (l).
(n) When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
(o) A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
(p) When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.
§ 1194.24 Video and multimedia products.
(a) All analog television displays 13 inches and larger, and computer equipment that includes analog television receiver or display circuitry, shall be equipped with caption decoder circuitry which appropriately receives, decodes, and displays closed captions from broadcast, cable, videotape, and DVD signals. As soon as practicable, but not later than July 1, 2002, widescreen digital television (DTV) displays measuring at least 7.8 inches vertically, DTV sets with conventional displays measuring at least 13 inches vertically, and stand-alone DTV tuners, whether or not they are marketed with display screens, and computer equipment that includes DTV receiver or display circuitry, shall be equipped with caption decoder circuitry which appropriately receives, decodes, and displays closed captions from broadcast, cable, videotape, and DVD signals.
(b) Television tuners, including tuner cards for use in computers, shall be equipped with secondary audio program playback circuitry.
(c) All training and informational video and multimedia productions which support the agency’s mission, regardless of format, that contain speech or other audio information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be open or closed captioned.
(d) All training and informational video and multimedia productions which support the agency’s mission, regardless of format, that contain visual information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be audio described.
(e) Display or presentation of alternate text presentation or audio descriptions shall be user-selectable unless permanent.
§ 1194.25 Self contained closed products.
(a) Self contained products shall be usable by people with disabilities without requiring an end-user to attach assistive technology to the product. Personal headsets for private listening are not assistive technology.
(b) When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.
(c) Where a product utilizes touchscreens or contact-sensitive controls, an input method shall be provided that complies with §1194.23 (k) (1) through (4).
(d) When biometric forms of user identification or control are used, an alternative form of identification or activation, which does not require the user to possess particular biological characteristics, shall also be provided.
(e) When products provide auditory output, the audio signal shall be provided at a standard signal level through an industry standard connector that will allow for private listening. The product must provide the ability to interrupt, pause, and restart the audio at anytime.
(f) When products deliver voice output in a public area, incremental volume control shall be provided with output amplification up to a level of at least 65 dB. Where the ambient noise level of the environment is above 45 dB, a volume gain of at least 20 dB above the ambient level shall be user selectable. A function shall be provided to automatically reset the volume to the default level after every use.
(g) Color coding shall not be used as the only means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.
(h) When a product permits a user to adjust color and contrast settings, a range of color selections capable of producing a variety of contrast levels shall be provided.
(i) Products shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.
(j) Products which are freestanding, non-portable, and intended to be used in one location and which have operable controls shall comply with the following:
(1) The position of any operable control shall be determined with respect to a vertical plane, which is 48 inches in length, centered on the operable control, and at the maximum protrusion of the product within the 48 inch length (see Figure 1 of this part).
(2) Where any operable control is 10 inches or less behind the reference plane, the height shall be 54 inches maximum and 15 inches minimum above the floor.
(3) Where any operable control is more than 10 inches and not more than 24 inches behind the reference plane, the height shall be 46 inches maximum and 15 inches minimum above the floor.
(4) Operable controls shall not be more than 24 inches behind the reference plane (see Figure 2 of this part).
More information about Section 508 standards can be access online.
Version 2.0—April 1, 1997
Major funding provided by: The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education. Copyright 1997 North Carolina State University, The Center for Universal Design.
The authors, a working group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design researchers, collaborated to establish the following Principles of Universal Design to guide a wide range of design disciplines including environments, products, and communications.
These seven principles may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process. and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments. The Principles of Universal Design are presented here, in the following format: name of the principle, intended to be a concise and easily remembered statement of the key concept embodied in the principle; definition of the principle, a brief description of the principle’s primary directive for design; and guidelines, a list of the key elements that should be present in a design which adheres to the principle. (Note: all guidelines may not be relevant to all designs.)
Definition of Universal Design: The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
1a. Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not.
1b. Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users.
1c. Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available to all users.
1d. Make the design appealing to all users.
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and
2a. Provide choice in methods of use.
2b. Accommodate right- or left-handed access and use.
2c. Facilitate the user’s accuracy and precision.
2d. Provide adaptability to the user’s pace.
Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. Guidelines:
3a. Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
3b. Be consistent with user expectations and intuition.
3c. Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.
3d. Arrange information consistent with its importance.
3e. Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities. Guidelines:
4a. Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.
4b. Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.
4c. Maximize “legibility” of essential information.
4d. Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
4e. Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. Guidelines:
5a. Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.
5b. Provide warnings of hazards and errors.
5c. Provide fail safe features.
5d. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. Guidelines:
6a. Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.
6b. Use reasonable operating forces.
6c. Minimize repetitive actions.
6d. Minimize sustained physical effort.
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility. Guidelines:
7a. Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.
7b. Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.
7c. Accommodate variations in hand and grip size.
7d. Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.
Please note that the Principles of Universal Design address only universally usable design, while the practice of design involves more than consideration for usability. Designers must also incorporate other considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes. These Principles offer designers guidance to better integrate features that meet the needs of as many users as possible.
Many accessibility challenges can be addressed by providing interpretive information in multiple formats to accommodate specific audiences. A word of caution: the presentation must be equal to the quantity and quality of the original on which it is based so as to provide an equitable experience for the user.
When purchasing software or hardware that will interface with an interpretive exhibit, the process of purchasing must adhere to all requirements identified in section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
Alternative formats include, but are not limited to:
For the most current version of each of the following symbols and to download symbols, go to the “Other Symbols” under the Maps Symbols and Patterns at: http://www.nps.gov/hfc/carto/map-symbols.cfm.
To the endless list of people who helped create these guidelines–government workers, quasi-government workers, non-profit workers, website creators, and anyone else who helped directly or indirectly—thank you.