March 19, 2001
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Wendy Carol Roth, whose disappointment that she could marvel at the Grand Canyon only from a parking lot led to a book to help other disabled people enjoy the national parks and a campaign for easier access to them, died on Wednesday at her home in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Ms. Roth, a television producer, contracted multiple sclerosis 30 years ago and died of complications of the disease, her husband, Michael Tompane, said. She was 48.
For her book, "Easy Access to National Parks: The Sierra Club Guide for People With Disabilities" (Sierra Club, 1992), Ms. Roth and her husband drove 32,000 miles and visited 41 states to examine 37 national parks, as well as national historical parks, national monuments and national parkways. She got around on an electric three-wheel scooter, which she first controlled by hand and later, as her condition worsened, with her chin.
The book offered practical advice to make visiting the parks as pleasant as possible for disabled people — advice that Ms. Roth and Mr. Tompane pointed out was also relevant to older people and for parents visiting with children.
In their travels, the couple found that some of the most popular national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and the Grand Canyon, had limited access for disabled people, while some they had imagined would not be particularly accessible, like Big Bend National Park in Texas, could accommodate the disabled.
After writing their book, they worked with the National Park Foundation to improve accessibility at 175 places in more than 100 national parks. Their organization, Easy Access Parks Challenge, organized volunteers and raised money. In one of its projects, television screens were installed at the base of Alcatraz so that visitors could see the cell block without having to climb a steep quarter-mile path.
Ms. Roth was born on Oct. 17, 1952, in Brooklyn, and grew up in East Norwich on Long Island. She graduated from Princeton and earned a master's degree in communications from Stanford.
As a television producer, she worked with Phil Donahue on several programs and developed, wrote and produced "The Human Animal," a five-part series on human behavior first broadcast by NBC in 1986.
She is survived by her husband; her mother, Phyllis Feigenbaum of East Norwich; and her brother, Richard Roth of Seattle.
Last year, the National Multiple Sclerosis society presented Ms. Roth with its National Education Award. In her acceptance remarks, which were delivered by Mr. Donahue because she was ill, she said, "If you do not give up, you will take your soul to the place you want to be."