Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Date Available


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Committee Chair

Dr. Eugenia Toma

Executive Summary

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, disabled, or differently abled, members of American communities are entitled to receive identical, or equivalent, treatment and admission to public services, without discrimination based solely on their disability. Therefore, it is in violation of this act to not accommodate public spaces and facilities for these individuals, with the exception of cases where doing so to an existing facility would demonstrably, and with burden of proof on the agency, “result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a program or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens” (28 CFR § 39.150). It is consequently of justifiable concern that the natural and historic areas that are the subject of public programming may fall into this exception, due to the fundamental alteration of natural or historic landscapes that may be required for accommodation. Such concern is greater because, as described in the review of literature, it has been demonstrated that access to natural areas may be helpful in improving mental health for persons with disabilities. The immersion of one’s self in natural areas has been statistically shown to decrease depression and anxiety in various individuals. In tandem, the intrinsic burdens of disability have been shown to increase depression, which coincides with stress and anxiety (Noh et al. 2016,, 2020). Therefore, not only is the compliance of Kentucky State Parks with the minimum ADA requirements paramount, but the transcendence of natural area activities and programming to be inclusively accommodating and inviting for persons with disabilities could go a long way toward improving the mental health of the community. Local parks have been working to make their facilities and programming more inclusive for persons with disabilities. It is these practices, described in the review of literature, that I have attempted to scale to the State Park level, as to provide a basis for identifying instances of exemplary inclusivity, as well as ADA compliance, in natural/historic recreation areas. In order for members of Kentucky’s differently abled community to get a sense of where they might go to find state-provided nature or history educational/recreational programming, my capstone consisted of a survey of Kentucky State Parks, from which my intention was to create a scorecard, or guide, to display access to programming that transcends ADA requirements, in addition to gauging minimum ADA compliance. This survey’s results would serve as a baseline from which subsequent renditions can be compared to, for improvement or break down of programming and facilities over time. Unfortunately, my survey’s responses were cut short by concerns from State Park administrators. While many parks did not respond, graphic depictions of inclusive elements within respondent parks’ surveys are broken down herein. Accompanied by an incomplete scorecard, these graphics tell a general story as to the parks’ ability to provide uniform conformity for these accommodations.



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