Madison Trimble is slowly but confidently making her way around a simple maze of PVC pipes laid out on the ground.
Every few steps, her feet or her bright yellow cane bumps against a pipe, and she shifts her direction slightly.
When she gets to the end, Madison, an 18-year-old Venturer from Crew 5275C of the Alamo Area Council, takes off the blindfold. She looks behind her.
“That was hard!” she says. “You have to use your other senses, like hearing and feel.”
That’s exactly the point of the disAbilities Awareness Challenge area at the 2017 National Jamboree. Venturers and Scouts experience the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities or special needs.
A greater understanding
After completing any or all of the 19 different activities, Scouts and Venturers leave with a greater appreciation for those who may be different from them.
“We are classified as one of the exhibits and displays, but we are an action center” says Tony Mei, the volunteer in charge of the disAbilities Awareness Challenge.
The 19 activities include Beep Baseball, where blindfolded participants use their hearing to try to hit a beeping softball; Home Front Challenge, where Scouts discover how simple tasks, like opening a freezer, are more difficult for wheelchair users; and the ADHD and Autism tent, where Scouts experience some of the ways those brain disorders affect their fellow Scouts and Venturers.
“The common denominator is, ‘I will never look at someone with a disability the same again. Now I understand.'” Mei says. “It’s uplifting. It’s positive.”
Challenging but fun
Wheelchair Basketball is among the most popular stations. Carter Pate, a 14-year-old Life Scout from Troop 2406 of the Heart of America Council, says it was both fun and challenging.
“I used brakes to turn sharply, and over time I got better at it,” he says. “It does change the way I look at them, because I realized all the things they have to consider in order to move in any direction.
“Everything is like a puzzle,” he says. “It’s so much more complicated.”