disAbilities Awareness Challenge at 2017 National Jamboree gives Scouts, Venturers a new perspective

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.”


  1. I attended the disAbilities Awareness Challenge with my son and other members of our Jamboree Troop. It was truly an eye-opening life changing experience for me. I have a better appreciation for Scouts with different abilities and making inclusion a priority now. I would love to hold a disAbilities Awareness camporee. My hat is off to the team at Jamboree that makes this happen!

  2. I’d love to try to replicate some of these activities with our Troop. Any suggestions of some we could do? I have access to a wheelchair, mobility scooter and probably crutches. Neckerchiefs can be blindfolds. But they couldn’t play wheelchair basketball with one wheelchair… Ideas are appreciated.

    • We did this kind boot at a Scout-o-rama back when I was a kid and remember it well to this day. Do a wheelchair obstacle course. We used a 3-4′ wide strip of carpet and placed things under it like a 2×4, had a door threshold and a couple 90* turns like you’d find in a hallway for the participants to navigate in a wheelchair. We also blindfolded people and had them fill a glass of water from a pitcher without spilling any.

    • Contact your local senior centers to see if you can borrow a couple more wheelchairs. Employers might be willing to sponsor renting one or two for an evening or long week-end. Is there a local ARC? They are often helpful. Contact your state Council on Disabilities (Governor’s office), and the special ed chair at local schools. Is there a Hope Cottages near you? It’s not too hard to find them if you search around a little. I saw a great one at a garage sale for $10! Good luck!

    • We do an obstacle course with a basketball hoop at the end. Get three chances to shoot the hoop. If for Camporee events can be timed. Check Craig’s list, other sale or free sites for free wheelchairs. Or, put add out in same forum asking for equipment.

  3. My dad lost his left arm in a construction accident even before he met my mom. I learned from him how to tie my shoe one handed (try that for your Disability Awareness !), how to drive a nail and saw one handed, (he was a one armed master carpenter), and how to split shift a two range gear box one handed….
    I learned to say we are “temporarily able”, and not that some folks are “permanently disabled”.

  4. Stunned to read that the Boy Scouts were cheering for Donald Trump, the man who openly mocked a disabled man at a campaign rally.

    • Really Jean? The article is about Disability Awareness and you bring up the Presidents visit? Please learn when topics are appropriate and when they are not.

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