WASHINGTON The National Park Service has launched a Web site for visitors with disabilities and other special needs to help them find accessible trails, programs and activities at national parks.
The Web site at www.nps.gov/pub_aff/access/index.htm is called "National Parks: Accessible to Everyone."
Many individual parks have sections on their Web sites about accessibility, and the new national database is a work in progress, incorporating information as it becomes available.
The site lists places where signed interpreters can be arranged for the hearing-impaired and which visitors centers have captioned movies or services for visually impaired park-goers. There are also detailed descriptions of trails, including the type of surface, for visitors who have mobility handicaps or use wheelchairs.
A description of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for example, notes that most park trails are "steep and rugged," but a half-mile paved trail can be found on Newfound Gap Road south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center, along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. The path even has tracks of a black bear that happened to wander across the wet concrete when the trail was built.
"We still have a way to go before we can say we are accessible to all, but that is our goal and we will continue to work to achieve that," Mary A. Bomar, director of the National Park Service, said in a statement.