The Latest Battle - Sequoia National Park - Kings Canyon
To fight for the rights of Disabled Equestrians to access public parks, forests and open space. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit discrimination against the disabled
The Disabled Equestrians Organization (DEO) represents individuals that are moderately disabled and use a horse or mule to provide them access to trails in the outdoors. The causes of their disabilities are varied, and include accidents, old age and disease. Some of the areas affected are knees, lungs, hearts, backs, ankles and eyesight. In spite of the diversity of aliments, they all share a common solution to their disabilities: they use a horse or mule to carry their worn out bodies to the places that millions of Americans enjoy: the beautiful high country of the Sierras, the rolling hills of the California coast, and many other public parks and forests
The DEO is very concerned about Federal, State and Local agencies that are restricting, limiting or reducing the use of horses on the public trails they manage. There appears to be a concerted effort by some people who seem to think such restrictions are somehow good for the environment. We disagree with this conclusion, but limiting access amounts to discrimination against disabled equestrians.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336 enacted July 26, 1990 and the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II, subtitle A, of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all services, programs, and activities provided to the public by Federal, State and local governments. A disability as defined by ADA is a “ physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual”. To watch the roar of the falls in Yosemite, see the snow-capped peaks of the high Sierras, listen to the wind rustling in the aspens, these are truly a major life activity. The Department of Justice can seek action to enforce these provisions.
The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 requires all buildings and facilities built or renovated with Federal funds be accessible to and useable to physically disabled persons.
This law forms the foundation of the legal mandate requiring Federally funded facilities and programs to be accessible to and usable by physically disabled persons.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended
in 1978 states "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 subject to discrimination
under any program or activity conducted by Federal financial assistance or by an
Executive Agency." This Act
further broadens the Architectural Barriers Act in that it requires program
accessibility in all services provided with Federal dollars.
To deny disabled horseman the right to use a horse to access the public trails is a clearly a violation of Federal Laws. We are not asking for extensive facilities to be constructed, but just permission to use the trails. For those who own their horse, they need a place to park their trailer to unload their equine friend. Where there are horse rental facilities, they must be kept open and maintained. For those who use commercial packing services, the packers must have permission and access to the trails.
We do not want to see our funds and public funds spend on a lawsuit to enforce our rights. We would rather work with the public agencies to improve the trails, raise funds for outdoor programs, expand horse camps, and raise public awareness. But if we are denied our rights, complaints to the Department of Justice, and a legal action will be our only recourse.