Scouts With Disabilities and Special Needs
Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has had fully participating members with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. James E. West, the first Chief Scout Executive, was a person with a disability. Although most of the BSA’s efforts have been directed at keeping such boys in the mainstream of Scouting, it has also recognized the special needs of those with severe disabilities.
The Boy Scout Handbook has had braille editions for many years; merit badge pamphlets have been recorded on cassette tapes for the blind; and closed-caption training videos have been produced for those who are deaf. In 1965, registration of over-age Scouts with mental disabilities became possible—a privilege now extended to many people with disabilities.
Today, approximately 100,000 Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers with disabilities are registered with the Boy Scouts of America in more than 4,000 units chartered to community organizations.
Recognition of Needs -
The basic premise of Scouting for youth with disabilities and special needs is that they want most to participate like other youth—and Scouting gives them that opportunity.Thus, much of the program for Scouts with disabilities and special needs is directed at (1) helping unit leaders develop an awareness of disabled people among youth without disabilities and (2) encouraging the inclusion of Scouts with disabilities and special needs in Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, Varsity Scout teams, Venturing crews, and Sea Scout ships.
There are many units, however, composed of members with similar disabilities or special needs—such as an all-blind Boy Scout troop or an all- deaf Cub Scout pack—but these members are encouraged to participate in Scouting activities at the district, council, area, regional, and national levels along with other youth. Many of these special Scouting units are located
in special schools or centers that make the Scouting program part of their curriculum.
Many of the more than 300 BSA local councils have established their own advisory committees for youth with disabilities and special needs.These committees develop and coordinate an effective Scouting program for youth with disabilities and special needs, using all available community resources. Local councils also are encouraged to provide accessibility in their camps by removing physical barriers so that youth with disabilities and special needs can participate in weekend and summer resident camp experiences. Some local councils also have professional staff members responsible for the program for members with disabilities.