Merit Badges and Scouts with Disabilities

Boy Scout Requirements book“Scout Jay has serious vision impairment, but he’s really excited about the Astronomy Merit Badge. Can he earn it?”

Substitute any merit badge for “Astronomy” and you have a common but tricky question. The answer lies in the exact written requirements. Scout Jay must meet the requirements exactly as written, no more and no less. If a disability prevents him from completing the requirements, then Jay must earn a different merit badge.

Modern merit badge requirements are often flexible to benefit Scouts with disabilities. For example, most merit badges don’t explicitly require reading, writing, or speaking. Instead of saying “Write a list of the five most visible planets,” or “Recite a list of the five most visible planets,” the Astronomy requirement simply says “List the five most visible planets.” The form and structure of the list is not part of the requirement.

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Wood Badge in American Sign Language

Scouters from all councils are invited attend a bilingual Wood Badge course couducted in both English and American Sign Language (ASL). The Great Salt Lake Council offers this course July 9-14, 2018, at the Monson Training Lodge. More information can be found at https://www.saltlakescouts.org/woodbadge.

The course uses a modified curriculum to enable and encourage both Deaf and hearing participants to engage with one another in a cooperative and supportive manner, while learning crucial leadership skills.  Each leadership concept is presented in both ASL and English and all video presentations are closed captioned.  A crew of full time interpreters interpret leadership concepts when presented and to assist in other communication needs between Deaf and hearing participants.

Sign Language for Scouting Events

signingDeaf and hard of hearing Scouts, Scouters and family members present new challenges for many units.  Units, districts and councils aren’t legally obligated to provide a sign language interpreter for deaf participants, and often can’t afford a professional, certified interpreter. Yet we want to include everyone in the Scouting experience. We benefit both deaf and hearing participants when we make accommodations. These can range from pre-printed materials and visual aids to American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. 

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Jamboree With Disabilities

2017 Jamboree Disabilities Awareness Challenge Staff PatchScott Hellen, a National Jamboree staffer with limited mobility, shares observations on his Jamboree experience.

We all have preconceived expectations of what our first time on staff at a National Jamboree will be like. I was looking forward to working hundreds of Scouts from around the country and abroad as they came through the Disabilities Awareness Challenge, dAC. I also wanted to meet the adult Scouters that came from various locations and diverse backgrounds to serve as dAC staff. I learned fast that reality does not always meet one’s expectations.

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Meeting Requirements “With No Exception”

guide to advancement front cover, 2015The following was originally published in the May-June 2017 issue of Advancement News.

“Meet the requirements as they are written, with no exception.”

The quote above from the Guide to Advancement, topic 10.2.2.0, at first glance may sound harsh, restrictive, and could even leave one wondering how a Scout with special needs can meet requirements that sometimes seem too tough. Well, with a little bit of creativity and teamwork, Scouts and leaders have found exceptional ways to complete requirements without exception.

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