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. Dr. James E. West,
the first Chief Scout Executive, was himself disabled. 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 blind Scouts; and closed-caption training videos have been
produced. In 1965, registration of over-age Scouts with mental retardation
became possible—a privilege now extended to many people with
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
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 identical 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 summer and resident camp experiences. Some local councils also
have professional staff members responsible for the program for members
Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers
with disabilities and special needs participate in the same program
as do their peers.
The BSA's policy has always
been to treat members with disabilities and special needs as much
like other members as possible, but a local council may make some
accommodations in advancement requirements if necessary. A Scout
with a permanent physical or mental disability may select an alternate
merit badge in lieu of a required merit badge if his disabling condition
prohibits the Scout from completing the necessary requirements of
a particular required merit badge. This substitute should provide
a "similar learning experience." Full guidelines and explanations
are available through the local council and on the Application for
Alternate Eagle Scout Rank Merit Badges, No. 58-730. The local council
advancement committee must approve the application. A Scout may also
request changes in the Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class
ranks. The procedures are described in Boy Scout Requirements
2001, No. 33215D.
This policy is designed to keep youth
with disabilities and special needs as much in the mainstream as
possible. Practical suggestions are made to leaders
as to approaches and methods they can use. Thus, a youth in a wheelchair
can meet the requirements for hiking by making a trip to places of
interest in his community. Giving more time and permitting the use
of special aids are other ways leaders can help youth with disabilities
and special needs in their efforts to advance; the unit leader plays
a crucial role in that effort.
BSA local councils have formed cooperative relationships
with agencies, school districts, and other organizations in serving
disabled people. Many of these organizations have played a part in
the development of literature, audiovisual aids, and media in braille
for Scouts with disabilities and their leaders.
Each year, the BSA awards the national Woods Services
Award to an adult in Scouting who has demonstrated exceptional service
and leadership in the field of Scouting for disabled people (given
by the Woods Services in Langhorne, Pennsylvania). The Woods Services
Award is the highest recognition awarded by the BSA in this area
of service. The Torch of Gold Award is available for similar presentation
by local councils.
Other national support projects include materials relating
to disabled and special needs people in the National Camping School
syllabi as well as production of special manuals on Scouting for
youth with emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, hearing
impairment, physical disabilities, visual impairment, and mental
retardation. A weeklong training course for people working with youth
with disabilities is offered each summer at the Philmont Training
In August 1977, the first handicap awareness trail
was incorporated into the program of the national Scout jamboree
at Moraine State Park in Pennsylvania. More than 5,000 Scouts participated.
Since then, many local councils have created their own awareness
trails, designed to make nondisabled people aware of the many problems
faced by people with disabilities and special needs. Recent Scout
jamborees have continued this tradition. Some local councils hold
handicamporees that feature camping and outdoor activities for youth
An interpreter strip for Signing for the Deaf can be
earned by all Scouts.
Requirements and merit badge pamphlet for a Disabilities
Awareness merit badge were published in 1981 and revised in 1993.
The purpose of this merit badge is to help many thousands of America
's youth develop a positive attitude toward individuals with disabilities
and special needs. This attitude, based on study and personal involvement
of people with disabilities, creates an excellent foundation for
acceptance, mainstreaming, and normalization of those who are disabled.
The learning experiences provided by working toward the Disabilities
Awareness merit badge helps produce changes in the attitudes of America's
youth as they pursue new experiences and then share their new knowledge
In 1995, alternate requirements for Tenderfoot, Second
Class, and First Class ranks were established. These requirements
can be found in the "Guide to Working with Boy Scouts with Disabilities," No.
33056A, and "Advancement Committee Policy & Procedures," No.
Additional information and lists of literature and
other aids are available from the Boy Scout Division, Cub Scout Division,
Venturing, and Council Services Division at the Boy Scouts of America,
1325 W. Walnut Hill Lane, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, TX 75015-2079.
Local and National scout shop
Occoneechee Scout Shop (Raleigh,NC )
3231 Atlantic Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27604
1 (888) 421-4744
Cumberland Scout Shop ( Fayetteville,NC)
Frontier Shopping Center
717 Hope Mills Road ( Hwy. 59 )
Fayetteville, NC 28304
1 (888) 421 - 7268
National Scout Shop (Tx)
Services Division at the Boy Scouts of America
1325 W. Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079,
Irving, TX 75015-2079