This story has been shared with Scouters nationwide by Charles Dahlquist, National Commissioner, in a recent issue of Scouting Magazine.
Joe could be any Scout. This particular Scout attended the National Scout Jamboree last year. While we all face our daily challenges, Joe faces a lot more than most Jamboree attendees. He arrived with a motorized cart and a special aide to help him.
Some people might discourage a Scout with disabilities from visiting the Jamboree’s Action Point, or from attending the Jamboree at all. But Joe was met with a “Can Do!” attitude by the staffers at Action Point. He had the time of his life.
“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.
Beginning in 2001, every Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill included a one-armed archery activity. At the Fort, it used a special one-handed bow-and-arrow fixture in a quonset hut as part of the disAbilities Awareness Challenge. When the Jamboree moved to the Summit in 2013 there was no enthusiasm for installing the fixture on the archery range. That attitude changed in 2017.
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.
Deaf 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.
Scott 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.
The recent issue of Scouting published a feature article on Scouting for youth with special needs (March-April 2017, vol 105, no 2). It is now available online.
The article gives examples of working successfully with youth who have special needs and talks about BSA’s resources and activities at the national level to support this work.