Search
  • Denise Vasquez

How Accessible Is Accessible: Joshua Tree National Park

Updated: a day ago


#Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


You might have heard the phrase “Find Your Park” being used by people when referring to the national #parks. Well I knew I found my #park the first time I #ventured to Joshua Tree National Park back in the 90’s. It was #love at first sight! I fell in love with the big #colorful #skies that were and still are a #beautiful backdrop to an exotic #environment, filled with the most interesting looking #trees I’ve ever seen. I loved how every #tree held a unique position unlike any other, and how they looked like they were frozen in #time after #dancing through the #night, to the #rhythm of the #coyotes howls under a blanket of #stars. My #imagination, #heart and #spirit has always run #wild and #free whenever I’ve visited the park over the years, which has inspired some of my favorite works of #art and #photography. Whenever I’ve visited Joshua Tree National Park over the years, I always felt like I was entering a #vortex into another #world, but yet, this unique environment has always felt like #home to me.


I’ve been a #professional #photographer for years, but I wasn’t always #disabled. My permanent #disability was caused by a #work injury almost three years ago. I may have lost some #abilities to do many things I used to do, but my #passion for #photography has remained, and I’m still finding ways to pursue my #dream of being a #travel photographer and #writer! Perhaps there is a #job someplace that requires me to travel, do #photography, write and work with the National Parks as a #leader to drive #change for #accessibility. Just putting it out there! Sometimes you have to plant some seeds and watch them #grow!


Visiting Joshua Tree National Park has always made me #happy, at #peace and #inspired. It has been my go to place over the years to #connect with #nature, to #heal, and to #create. But I have to admit, returning to the park being a disabled photographer, showed me a harsh #reality. Since my injury, going from using a variety of #wheelchairs (Motorized and manual), to a rolling #walker, a #cane, #crutches and #walkingsticks…I realized although the park has made some notable changes over the years, they still have a long way to go to break down #barriers, embrace #inclusivity and make the park fully #accessible to everyone!


While #exploring the park over the years whether I was in a #wheelchair, or using my rolling walker, I was really disappointed to find there were no #ADA Compliant trails. On my most recent trip, I used my #BlackDiamond walking sticks to see how accessible the trails felt this time, while creating the “How Accessible Is Accessible” video and for The Disabled Photographer Project #blog. On this trip, I only found ONE ADA compliant #trail. Not only that, but the one trail only has one accessible #parking spot on the side of the road which you have to be #mindful & careful when getting in and out of your vehicle; no restroom, no water fountain and no ADA #tactile #Braille signage at the #viewpoint #exhibit.

ADA Compliant Trail Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


There was a part of me that was grateful to have at least one accessible trail, especially after visiting a park like The Valley Of Fire that didn’t have any accessible trails. But honestly, I strongly believe every park should be equally accessible to everyone! Every trail, every #restroom, every #campground, every exhibit…everything! #Dare to Dream and make it happen!

Cap Rock Trail Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


As I mention in the video, there are #trails that are not fully accessible, but are doable if you are very careful or have assistance like “Cap Rock” and “The Cholla Cactus Garden”. I love #photographing #sunrises, #sunsets and the #milkyway at both locations, and the #Chollas are a #sight to see when the sun hits them a certain way, they appear to be #glowing. Keep in mind these trails are very sandy, rocky, have uneven terrain and not ADA compliant.

Cholla Cactus Garden Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Now I’m not here to bash Joshua Tree National Park, or any of the parks. On the contrary, with Joshua Tree being one of my favorite National Parks in the United States, my #goal is to bring #awareness to #accessibility #issues, so disabled people like me can be #informed, so that issues can be addressed, and the park can be made fully accessible to everyone!


What would make Joshua Tree National park fully accessible? For starters:

-ADA compliant accessible #Maps showing accessible areas

-ADA compliant accessible & reachable water #fountains

-ADA compliant accessible tactile braille #signage and #exhibits

-ADA compliant accessible audio exhibits

-ADA compliant accessible #paved & flat: #picnic areas, #campgrounds, parking spots, #walkways and #trails

-ADA compliant accessible restrooms with #ramps, #handrails, and restrooms big enough to fit any sized wheelchair, rolling walker, cane, crutches and an assistant. Also to have sinks, hand towels, soap dispensers at #reachable #heights whether I’m in a wheelchair using a rolling walker walking sticks or cane, and to have tactile braille signage and audio everywhere.

-ADA compliant accessible #doors that aren’t so heavy, and difficult to open. Have a button to push that opens the door, or make the door so that they are light and push easily to open. I can tell you from personal experience, that when you’re in a wheelchair, it is difficult & sometimes impossible to open a heavy door that I have to pull towards myself to open.

-ADA compliant accessible trails that are paved, flat and not on steep slopes.

-ADA Compliant accessible #artist #residencies, #programs, #walks, #presentations and #workshops, especially accessible photography workshops for disabled #photographers like me!


I am happy to report that I was invited to meet with members of the the Joshua Tree National Park Association. We discussed many things including the Park’s #goals with #accessibility, from complying with legal ADA requirements to #cultural #sensitivity. Having this #meeting was very important to me, because I believe the key to implementing #change, begins with #communication. I am very grateful and excited about the #opportunity I was given to share my personal #experiences, and to provide #feedback. I look forward to #working with the parks in their #endeavors & very excited about what’s to come! Thank you again to Joshua Tree National Park for all of your #efforts and for filling me in on what #improvements are being done to make the park accessible to everyone. Stay tuned. Lots of exciting things are happening!


We Are All Connected Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021 at Cap Rock Available on merchandise here https://fineartamerica.com/featured/we-are-all-connected-denise-vasquez.html



*If you'd like to support The Disabled Photographer Project, you can make a donation by clicking Here


#Shop in my store https://www.DeniseVasquezPhotography.com/shop


The project is also currently seeking #sponsors, #grants, #funding and #ambassadorships. For inquiries contact Denise Vasquez denisevasquezphotography@gmail.com


#Follow #TheDisabledPhotographerProject


#Youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCallyZDiOzSkVDqUjMYdOaw


#Blog https://www.DeniseVasquezPhotography.com/blog


#Instagram https://www.instagram.com/disabledphotographerproject


#Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/thedisabledphotographerproject


#HowAccessibleIsAccessible #JoshuaTreeNationalPark #JoshuaTree #NationalPark #NationalParks #JTNPA #FindYourPark #ADACompliant #DisabilityAwareness #Disabilityrights #Outdoorsforall #Canon #SigmaPhoto #tamrac #Uggs #peakdesign #Levis


Recent Posts

See All
©Denise Vasquez Photography