Disabled Equestrians Organization

231 Glenwood Ave

Woodside, Calif.  94062

650-851-8343 Voice

650-851-3914 FAX


mailto: donp@disabledequestrians.org

November 24, 2000




Yosemite Valley Plan

Yosemite National Park


The proposed Yosemite Valley Plan is in violation of Federal Law.  The proposed restrictions on the use of horses discriminates against disabled equestrians who use use horses and mules for access to the trails of Yosemite.   We reqest the offending elements of the Plan to be immediately removed from the Plan. 


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 and ankles.  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 the issue we are concerned about is far more important. 


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 Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 requires all buildings and facilities built or renovated with Federal funds be accessible to and usable 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 horsemen the right to use their horse to access the public trails is a clearly a violation of Federal law and results in discrimination against disabled equestrians.  The Plan proposed to reduce opportunities for disabled equestrians by eliminating the stables in the Valley, reducing and eliminating pack and saddle stock facilities, and reducing and eliminating areas of the forest and Valley where pack and saddle stock may travel.   It is essential that disabled equestrians have a place to park their trailer to unload their horse, a place for their horse to spend the night, a place to rent horses if they do not own them, and the permission to ride on 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, a lawsuit will be our only recourse.


Our objections to the Plan were communicated to the National Park Service in a letter of June 20, 2000.  The authors of the Plan did not respond to our concerns and ignored our letter.  We expect this issue to be resolved before any action it taken on implementing the Plan.


Please keep us informed of your progress in revising the Plan to comply with Federal Law.





Donald E. Pugh


mailto: donp@disabledequestrians.org