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Enjoying Life at a National Park


Above: Yosemite National Park
© Luca Nichetti | Dreamstime.com

by Hallie MacDonald

Did you know that if you have a permanent disability you may be entitled to a FREE, lifetime pass to a National Park or Federal Recreational Land?  Physical, mental and sensory impairments are qualifying disabilities under this program.  

The pass gives you access to over 2000 Federal Recreation sites - including National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forest and other Recreation Lands.  And one of the best features of the pass is that it includes everyone in your car.  So you can bring your family for an outing or even camp in a National Forest without having to buy passes for the whole family, which can be an expensive outing, especially for someone living on a disability check and having high medical bills.

The application process can be found here: https://store.usgs.gov/access-pass

The National Park system website offers accessibility information for each park individually.  Once on the site, nps.gov, click on the link "plan your visit" and then "Find a park".  In each park's menu, there is a link for "accessibility".  There is a wealth of information available to allow you to know what you need to prepare for including trails that are packed and level enough to allow for wheelchair access, campgrounds with site maps to allow for easy access, even beaches that have paths with access available.  And they also let you know if your access to recreation areas will be limited because of rocky terrain or very narrow trails that make assistive device use limited.  The site also has information about accessibility for your Service Dog.  Of course, all the Federal Land, Parks, and Recreation areas have accessible bathrooms and buildings, so you can count on being able to visit nature centers, museums, galleries, shops, and restaurants on the grounds.  

You can enjoy beautiful summer outings with your friends and family this summer.  Remember to take along plenty of water or electrolyte drinks, sunscreen, and a hat or umbrella to create your own shade.  And you might want to pack a picnic lunch because there is sure to be a great shade tree to sit under at a National Park.  Enjoy!


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