Choosing the Right Camp: Accessibility & Accomodations
If your family member has a disability, dietary restrictions, or other special needs, choosing the right camp means finding one with accessibility and reasonable accommodations. The joy of camp should be something everyone can participate in. Here are a few important things to consider when your loved one with a disability is ready for summer fun.
Inclusive vs. Specialized Camps
There are many camps that make accommodations for inclusive participation so that campers with disabilities can attend the same camp as their peers without disabilities.
There are also camps designed specifically for people with disabilities. These camps help curb some of the anxieties families and service providers have about access, and offer an easy way for campers to relate and find common ground with one another. Staff at these camps are specifically trained to meet a variety of physical, emotional, and behavioral needs (most have a nurse on staff to address unique medical needs as well). Of course, these camps offer the same opportunities for outdoor fun as any other camp, and are often staffed by a diverse mix of persons with and without disabilities.
- Does your child or family member with a disability want to go to a camp specifically for campers with disabilities, or would they rather have accommodations made at a different camp?
- If the camp is specifically for campers with disabilities, what are their other values?
- Will your child or family member learn independence and social skills?
- If this camp is not specifically for campers with disabilities, have they made accommodations before? What accommodations do they offer?
- If your family member requires one-on-one supervision or assistance that the camp cannot provide, may an assistant or family member come with them at waived/reduced cost?
Accommodations: Questions to Ask
Once you have a general idea what type of camp your child or family member would like to attend, it’s good to be prepared to ask camp directors and staff about accommodations and access so that your concerns about health and safety are addressed.
- Are the cabins, dining hall, and activity areas accessible to campers who use wheelchairs or other mobility equipment?
- Are the restrooms in the cabins, dining hall, and other activity areas accessible?
- Are hiking and walking trails paved?
- Is there a ramp or chair-lift to help with getting in and out of the swimming pool?
- Do your showers have benches/shower chairs, or do I need to provide one?
- Will your child or family member be able to participate in all activities in some way?
- If safe participation is not possible, are there other activities that can be done in the same area, or other ways for them to help with an activity?
- Are service animals permitted on camp property?
- Is Camp kitchen staff able to accommodate dietary restrictions and food allergies?
Staff Training: Preparedness & Awareness
Knowing how staff are trained to assist and interact with campers is a great indicator of a camp’s values, priorities and culture. Safety and health are certainly important, but empathy, flexibility, and kindness are just as essential.
Imagine your family member coming back from camp more independent, more confident and with strong bonds to new friends. The right counselor can provide the support to help develop lifelong skills for every camper.
- What are some ways the programs support diversity and inclusion?
- How are the staff trained to interact with people with disabilities?
- How do counselors make sure every camper is included?
- How are staff trained to help campers if they feel isolated or lonely?
- How will camp help my family member to be more independent?
- How do your camp activities help build social skills?
- Do counselors have special training to work with campers who have learning disabilities, Traumatic Brain injuries, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or other Invisible Disabilities?
- How do counselors help campers make new friends?
Camp is the perfect place to find acceptance, overcome challenges, and make lifelong friends. All it takes is planning, preparation, and asking the right questions for your family member to have the adventure of a lifetime.
Leadership Academy believes everyone should get outside and play. If you have any questions about access and accommodations for our youth or adult camps, we are happy to help you find a program that is a perfect fit. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 615-865-4772.