National SND Committee Chair Warren Wenner was inspired by BSA’s Transporting Scouts Safety moment to compile these recommendations. These focus on Scouts who regularly travel in a wheelchair, including those whose lack of muscle control obliges the use of restraints in a wheelchair.
In my experience at camps and camporees, too many of these Scouts are transported improperly. For example:
- Scouts were placed in the bed/back of a pickup truck without restraints and their wheelchair alongside them.
- Scouts traveled in a golf cart or UTV with no restraints, including seatbelts or headrests.
Do we put any Scout in the back of a pickup truck? NO! In The Guide to Safe Scouting, any transport of people in the bed/back of a pickup truck is prohibited. This is regardless of whether a Scout has special needs or not. In the National Camping Standards, all BSA UTV operators must have online and hands-on training through the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA).
How can we help keep special needs Scouts safe when transporting them?
- All special needs Scouts should wear a helmet when they are transported.
- If the Scout has a headrest, a headrest is needed in the golf cart or UTV. Head restraints (also called headrests) are a safety feature attached or integrated into the top of each seat to limit the rearward movement of the occupant’s head. A few questions should be asked:
- Does the Scout have a head restraint on their wheelchair when they travel? For example, my son does but, we take it off when he is out of the van. So, the camp may not know that.
- Does the Scout have control of their upper body and neck? If not, they must be buckled in not just at the waist but at the upper body too. The best would be a 3-point belt.
Knowing how to load and unload a special needs van or bus is essential. Here are a few tips:
- Understand how to lock and unlock a Scout into the van or bus.
- Learn how to properly use the ramp safely when loading and unloading.
- Use the vehicle’s flashers when loading or unloading.
- Understand how to adjust the headrest properly.
- If a custom chest harness/vest is used on the wheelchair, it should be secured.
- Ensure the wheelchair brakes are locked.
A great resource is the SAFE Transportation Checklist and Pre-Trip Inspection for planning transport and completing a vehicle pre-trip inspection. The SAFE Transportation Checklist and Pre-Trip Inspection are available here. For questions, you may have about supporting Scouts with disabilities in your council, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.