Disability Adaptations at Philmont Training Center

PTC adaptive cope course preparationsThe COPE course was not the only focus of disability adaptations at Philmont Training Center last summer. Instructors and participants in the DIVERSEability and DisABILITY training course experienced several other adaptations. Long-time PTC instructor Scott Hellen (on left) was pleased to find the classrooms already prepared for individuals in wheelchairs. In a previous summer the PTC staff had produced wood blocks to raise table heights to better fit wheelchairs and the blocks were already installed when the course staff arrived. New picnic tables better accommodated people in wheelchairs as well as others with mobility problems.

The course instructors and participants last summer posed a challenge by reflecting a range of disabilities themselves. One participant had had vocal cord surgery that restricted the use of her voice. She used a combination of American Sign Language, pantomime gestures, and a writing slate to communicate. Another had survived a recent stroke, limiting both mobility and word memory. An-other was recovering from a broken foot.

The training course was itself arranged to accommodate multiple disabilities. As noted earlier, the room was mobility-friendly. Material was presented both orally and in text form. Images were designed to be comprehensible to participants with color blindness.

The kitchen adapted very effectively to help a participant with severe food allergies. The Philmont staff was alerted ahead of time and effectively addressed the cross contamination risks.

In addition to the COPE course, the PTC also organized a wheelchair orienteering event. This posed different challenges from a traditional orienteering event. The paths had to be wheelchair accessible and landmarks had to be visible at wheelchair level. For participants unfamiliar with wheelchairs, this was a form of “disability awareness challenge.”