Features November 2013 — 06 November 2013


If someone in a wheelchair wants to shoot on your range, can you accommodate them?  What about a returning serviceman who has lost a limb?

David Jones is president of the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association.  He said that making your range accessible to disabled shooters isn’t hard.  Accessibility is mostly a matter of good planning, and that kind of planning is good business.

“People with disabilities aren’t looking for special programs exclusively for them,” Jones said.  “They just want to be included and to do the same things that other people do.”

Sometimes providing access simply means removing barriers that prevent someone on crutches or in a wheelchair from navigating on a range.

The raised pistol positions at the Indian River County Shooting Range, left, not only accommodate wheelchair-bound shooters, but ambulatory shooters as well, right.
Photos courtesy of Holden Kriss, Indian River County Shooting Range

“It means having universally designed facilities so that your programs will be accessible,” Jones said.  “Following the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] code for restrooms and water fountains and picnic tables are pretty simple.  Outdoor recreation sometimes takes a little more thought from people who are familiar with disability issues and people with disabilities.”

Accessibility starts in the parking lot, Jones said, and continues through the facility to walkways, trails and, eventually, the firing line.

“The benchmark we strive for is wheelchair access,” he said.  “We know that if we build a facility so that wheelchairs can maneuver through it and access it, then we’re building it so that people with other disabilities can easily use it, too.”

Jones said program accessibility is just as important as facility access.

“People don’t go to a shooting range just to roll around the place,” he said.  “You need to make sure your program allows people to get to the shooting line and to their targets without barriers.  If you design your shooting areas so people have alternative positions, and physical support they can use when they shoot, then everyone can participate.”

As an example, Jones said, on an indoor pistol range, have one station where the shooter can be seated, and provide a pistol rest so the shooter can shoot from a chair or use the rest if he can’t hold the pistol in front of himself with both hands.

“Make it simple and easy to change targets,” Jones said.  “If you have a target-retrieval system, put the switch lower than usual so someone in a wheelchair can reach it.”

Indian River County Shooting Range also features raised positions on its rifle range, approachable on a shooting ramp, right.
Photos courtesy of Holden Kriss, Indian River County Shooting Range

The best source for information about accessibility and compliance with the ADA, Jones said, is the United States Access Board (www.access-board.gov).  Peggy Greenwell, an accessibility specialist for the Access Board, said almost all shooting ranges are covered under ADA, and all ranges should be aware of what’s required.

“Even most private shooting ranges are covered by the ADA,” Greenwell said.  “So they have obligations to make even existing shooting facilities accessible over time.”

The 2010 ADA Accessibility Standard, Greenwell said, applies to newly constructed and altered facilities.

“Shooting facilities and other recreation facilities were added to the standards that we previously have had under the ADA,” Greenwell said.  “In 2010 they revised the older standard and added facilities that were covered by the specific regulation but for which there was no guidance.”

Those additions included shooting ranges.

“As of March 15, 2012, all newly constructed and altered shooting facilities have to comply with the provisions of the ADA,” she said.  “That also was the date when existing facilities needed to begin the process of examining ways to make those facilities more accessible.  Depending on how a facility is covered under Title III, they need to do readily achievable barrier removal, which means doing what’s easy to accomplish without difficulty or expense.”

At Black Wing Shooting Center, the shooter platforms and booths that shooters use are hinged, so that they can be swung down out of the way, allowing a wheelchair-bound shooter, at a lower height, to use the target-retrieval controls. At left, the hinged shooting platform is up for use, and, right, down for wheelchair access.
Photos courtesy of Black Wing Shooting Center

If your range is owned by a state or local government, the regulations are similar.

“That’s under Title II, and it’s called ‘program accessibility,’” Greenwell said.  “Let’s say one of these programs has four shooting facilities, and none of them is handicapped accessible.  In this case, the program may focus on making one facility accessible now and over time working to make them all accessible.”

Ranges need to keep in mind, she said, that areas such as the parking lot, restrooms and similar areas have been covered by the ADA for years.  Ranges shouldn’t need to modify these areas now; they already should be in compliance with the ADA.  What you should be looking at now, Greenwell said, is fixed firing positions.

“At least five percent, but no less than one of each type, of fixed firing positions, must be ADA compliant,” she said.  “This does not include the target; it’s only the fixed shooting positions themselves.”

The details of ADA compliance for ranges go far beyond what we can cover in one article.  For more information about ADA compliance on your range, refer to the Access Board’s website at www.access-board.gov.  From there you can look at the Guidelines and Standards page and see what is required for a number of different kinds of facilities, including recreational facilities.  The Contact Us page provides phone numbers of various resources within the access board.

Andy Loeffler is the training department manager for Black Wing Shooting Center in Delaware, Ohio.  He said the Black Wing Shooting Center has been accessible since its inception.

“In all the conventional ways, such as the parking and sidewalks, we had everything made wide enough for wheelchairs,” he said.  “We also made all our indoor shooting booths wide enough to accept a wheelchair.  In addition, the shooter platforms and booths that shooters use are hinged so that they can be swung down out of the way.  That way, someone who’s sitting at a lower height such as in a wheelchair can use the target-retrieval controls.”

Loeffler said it’s just good business sense for everything to be accessible.

“We wanted to be sure we could accommodate anyone who wants to use the range, and that has worked out very well,” he said.  “In the 10 years that we’ve been open we’ve seen quite a few disabled shooters come through, and the things that we did have lent themselves well to that.”

According to Loeffler, the shooting center didn’t need to purchase any kind of specialized equipment or products to achieve accessibility.

“The best thing we did when we laid out the ranges was to envision someone seated in a wheelchair going through the range,” he said.

Range developers looked at things as simple as the height of light switches and the ease of use of target-retrieval systems.

“We made sure that everything was going to be in reach,” Loeffler said.

At the Indian River County Public Shooting Range in Sebastian, Fla., manager Holden Kriss said accessibility issues were included in the original planning process as well.

“We looked at other ranges around the country and saw the needs and the deficiencies of those ranges,” he said. “We decided that we were going to build this range completely compliant so that the shooter could get onto any of our ranges with a wheelchair.  We wanted people in wheelchairs to be able to shoot on our range as readily as anyone else.”

Kriss said the rifle range is built with a ramp and has separate shooting positions where the back ramp can be removed to allow for access.

“That way someone in a wheel chair can get out of the chair and onto a stool that is part of the bench,” Kriss said.  “Or we can remove the ramp and the shooter can wheel right up to the shooting position on the rifle range.”

The pistol range is similar in construction, but without the back bench; shooters in wheelchairs can wheel up a ramp and into shooting position.

Concrete paths, left, at Indian River County Shooting Range allow shooters in wheelchairs to check their targets. As at Indian River County’s rifle range, the pistol range, right, features raised positions and a ramp for access.
Photos courtesy of Indian River County Shooting Range

“The ramp and concrete pad raise the shooting area about eight inches higher than at the regular firing positions,” Kriss said.  “There’s also plenty of room at our regular shooting positions.”

Accessibility continues throughout the range, all the way to the targets.

“There are concrete paths on the rifle range and the pistol range,” Kriss said.  “On the pistol range there are paths for 7, 15 and 25 yards, and on the rifle range for 50, 100 and 200 yards.  The concrete paths have numbers on the ground so shooters can go out and check their targets.”

The shotgun areas also were included in the accessibility design.

“I wanted to be sure everyone could shoot everything from a wheelchair, including shotgun,” Kriss said.  “The 5-Stand and sporting clays are accessible also, as is archery.”

In the shotgun area, he said, concrete pads go all the way out to the shooting position.

“From the parking lot out, it’s all paved,” Kriss said.  “Nobody has to get off concrete to shoot.”

Even the archery range, which winds through the woods, has a stabilized trail that a wheelchair-bound shooter can navigate.

The success of both the overall facility and the accessibility efforts is easy to see the in the amount of traffic that comes to the range.

“We have almost 85,000 registered shooters using the range,” Kriss said.  “We see several hundred shooters in wheelchairs or with other disabilities every year.  They come because they know we’re compliant.  Being able to accommodate everyone definitely helps business.”

Accessibility Aids

Although none of these products is required to make your range accessible for disabled shooters, all of these are items that can enhance the shooting experience for guests with limitations.

Access To Recreation
8 Sandra Court
Newbury Park, CA 91320
Manual bite-switch trigger adapter, finger-control devices for shooters with curled fingers, compound bow mount, hand and wrist trigger aids, wheelchair gun mounts for pistols and rifles

Adaptive Outdoorsman
877-212-9411 or 614-923-9668
Rifle mount for wheelchair, adaptive bipod, Draw-Loc for compound bow

Be Adaptive
P.O. Box 84
Columbia City, IN 46725
260-244-7031 or 877-595-5634
Gun mount for quadriplegics, gun mounts for paraplegics, pistol mounts for wheelchairs, vacuum-actuated trigger system, bite trigger system, finger-control hand devices

New Height Technology
5108 Algonquin TR NW
Alexandria, MN 56308
Beanstalker hunting stand, which elevates like a lift truck to provide a shooting platform up to 12 feet off the ground

SR-77 Enterprises
363 Maple Street
Chadron, NE 69337
Hands-free shooting rest with vacuum-tube trigger

The Custom Line
308-239-4512 or 800-310-0617
Go Getter rack/seat that mounts on an ATV

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