On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) was signed by President George H.W. Bush. Over the next few years, various provisions of the law took effect.
In its original form the ADA largely dealt with the "built environment" addressing accessibility requirements for buildings. However, questions soon arose regarding access and the application of accessibility requirements to numerous outdoor sports, recreation, or other activities such as campgrounds, playgrounds and golf courses.1
Beginning in 1993, the first of six National Forums on Accessible Golf (NFAGs) was convened by the National Center on Accessibility (Indiana University) and the National Project for Accessible Golf (Clemson University) with the purpose of "bringing together representatives of major golf associations, golfers with disabilities and organizations representing golfers with disabilities for general discussions of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the game."2
Leading this effort were Mr. Gary Robb, Founding Director of the National Center on Accessibility at Indiana University and Dr. Larry Allen, Head, Department of Recreation Parks, and Tourism at Clemson University. Also involved were representatives from the U.S. Access Board and leading golf industry associations. Mr. Robb is not only a past President of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf, but he also served as Board Member and Grant Consultant for many years up until early 2023.
"The Access Board is an independent federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards."3
Subsequent to NFAG I, five more forums were conducted over the next three years with NFAG VI occurring in 1996. Per NFAG Proceedings VI:
The participants for some and/or all of these forums represented forward thinking individuals from the range of academia, golf and other industries dedicated to accessibility and inclusion in the game of golf. Forum participants are identified in copies of the available NFAG Proceedings HERE.
Beyond the leadership of Mr. Robb and and Dr. Allen, their inspiration and contributions led to awareness and action ultimately leading to the formation of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf and the relationships we maintain today. These relationships with key industry associations and leaders contribute directly to our ability to provide education and advocacy resources with an eye on the future. Their support also facilitates a modest grant program to help programs encourage participation from individuals with disabilities to get in this great game of golf.
As is the case now with the National Alliance Board of Directors, each of these individuals donated their time to these forums to lead the golf industry on a path to access and inclusion. Several participants from these early forums still directly contribute their time and expertise as National Alliance Board Members and many others continued on doing amazing things for the game of golf in their respective organizations such as Mr. Trey Holland, Past President of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Dr. Betsy Clark, Past Vice President of Professional Development for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and former LPGA Director of Education and Research.
As Mr. Steve Jubb, Past President and former Executive Director of the National Alliance relayed in an October 2021 Press Release marking the 20th year of the Alliance, a meeting was held at Indiana University in 2001 to formalize the creation of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf which was officially incorporated on Oct 22, 2002 and based at Indiana University's National Center on Accessibility from 2001-2006. In 2006, Alliance headquarters relocated to the Washington, DC area and was managed by the Drohan Management Group, Reston, VA. Continuing with the timeline:
Today, the mission of the Alliance has never been more important. In the 30 years since the ADA was passed, growth of the opportunities for individuals with disabilities to play golf remains the top priority for the Alliance. As golf experiences an upswing in participation at green grass facilities and the growing golf entertainment market at large including sophisticated gaming ranges and smaller indoor entertainment facilities, the number of individuals with disabilities interested in the game will only increase, indoors and outdoors!
The expansion of accessible and inclusive opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the game of golf has come a long way yet work remains to be done.
Through continued emphasis on education, advocacy, research and program support, the Alliance works to not only contribute, but to lead WITH other organizations on a daily basis focusing on serving individuals with disabilities, the organizations and programs that support these golfers, and the game of golf itself.
The vision of the past that became our mission of the present and for the future remains.
1. NFAG Proceedings II, Aug 14-15, 1993
2. NFAG Proceedings II, Aug 14-15, 1993