Jamboree Experiences with Disability Simulation

Cane maze at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree

This article appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of Abilities Digest.

The Disabilities Awareness Challenge (DAC) has been a regular feature at National Scout Jamborees since 1977.  The area offers a variety of simulated experiences and is a popular venue at Jamboree.  What is not so obvious are the efforts that are made to make sure Scouts are learning things even when they don’t realize they are learning.  Tony Mei, the former chair of the BSA Special Needs and Disabilities Committee, has been at the center of this part of Jamboree.  For the World Scout Jamboree in 2019, disability simulation experiences were scattered out and embedded with other program venues.  Ann Bruner-Welch, Disabilities Awareness Coordinator of Redwood Empire Council led the “Tent of Possibilities” at the WSJ.  Here are some of their insights:

Tony: The DAC is like a small fair inside the bigger fair of the Jamboree. A lot of what we show is adaptive sports, but we also present hidden disabilities.  While we are explaining “the rules” for the activity we put living with disabilities into context and encourage the Scouts to think in terms of what people with disabilities can do and not what they can’t do.

Ann: It makes a big difference when the simulated disability can be experienced for longer than a few minutes.  At the World Jamboree, I would outfit one Scout with a simulated disability and prepare the buddy Scout to be an assistant.  I had a lot of options for them. For example, if one Scout was blindfolded, the other got a crash course in blind guiding.  Then I sent them off to experience a nearby program area and then report back.  As they were turning in the equipment, we discussed what they experienced and used the Critical Lens approach to connect their experience to the bigger world around them.

Tony: Another feature of the DAC is displaying and demonstrating adaptive equipment.  There is a lot of technology out there to help people with disabilities do what they want to do.  Some of it is pretty simple and some of it is amazing tech.  One of the coolest things is to show them how many adaptive features are already built into their smart phones.

Ann: For me the most fulfilling part of staffing the Tent of Possibilities was talking to the Scouts and getting them to reflect on their experiences.  It was great to have the Scouts take their “disability” out into the world around them rather than performing a challenge task at a booth. That way they learned to improvise.

Tony:  We are still looking for staff for the SNDC at the 2023 National Jamboree.  If you want more information about how you can be part of the team, visit https://jamboree.scouting.org/jamboree-service-team/ and look up position #6138.