Access to Outdoor Service and the Utah Conservation Corps

Today is Earth Day and Keep America Beautiful‘s “Great American Clean Up” takes place every year from March 1 Great American Cleanupthrough May 31, with partners like Service Nation and Volunteer Match.

“In 2008, an estimated 3 million volunteers and attendees donated more than 6.7 million hours in clean, beautify and improve more than 17,000 communities during more than 30,000 events in all 50 states and beyond.”

National service programs are working to engage members and volunteers of all abilities in service opportunities outdoors. For example, for the past three summers, the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) Access to Service Inclusive Crew has conducted accessibility surveys and transition plans for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest and worked to design and construct an accessible community garden in Cache Valley.

Accessibility features made available as a direct result of the crew’s service enables people of all abilities to engage in activities outdoors and to help improve the environment. In 2009, the UCC AmeriCorps Access to Service Inclusive crew will be working with Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, and the accessible community garden will be ready for utilization by the public. Fifty percent of service members on the crew self-identify as a person with a disability.

What are some elements that make a community garden accessible?

  • Gardening beds and tables built at a verity of heights for easy access for all
  • “Vertical gardening” (use of climbing plants)
  • Wide, level pathways for easy maneuvering
  • Non-skid, gradually sloped ramps
  • Braille and large print plant nameplates
  • Seating areas for people to rest and enjoy their surroundings
  • A variety of adaptive gardening tools are made available to all (ex. hoes with extended reach, shovels with foam padding for easier grip)
  • An accessible greenhouse so that gardening is accessible to everyone year-round

How does your organization engage members of all abilities in volunteer opportunities, programs, trainings and activities in all settings, including the outdoors?

Please share your experience so that we all can learn. Send responses to Sarah Kaplan at sarah.kaplan [at] umb.edu and they will be compiled for a future post.

For further resources regarding outdoor accessibility and service, visit:

We always look forward to serving you! Please feel free to contact us with any disability inclusion questions and requests for information at NSIP [at] umb.edu or 888-491-0326 (V/TTY). Visit our website for a list of trainings offered by NSIP.

The National Service Inclusion Project is a cooperative agreement (08TAHMA001) between the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston in collaboration with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Association on Higher Education and Disability, National Council on Independent LivingNational Down Syndrome Congress. Information contained in this email is for informational purposes only and does not imply endorsement from the National Service Inclusion Project or the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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