quences of a mistake or accident. 6. Low physical effort: provides for effi- cient use. 7. Size and space for approach and use: room to maneuver regardless of size or mobility. Adopt a universal mindset. A universal approach considers everything and everyone in all aspects of an operation, from the design of a facility to staff training, program development, and implementation. Though an existing facility may not be entirely accessible, planning ahead will enable an organiza- tion to move toward that goal. To guide your planning, ask, “What are we doing to recognize and plan for the abilities, needs, and interests of all participants in our facility design, staff training, and program implementation?” Ask this repeatedly as you work toward change. Facilities and Programming Challenge course and zip line operators typically create an atmosphere that is inviting and welcoming. To extend this atmosphere across facility design, pro- grams, and staff training, ask: 1. In what ways are we intentionally inviting to all? 2. How does our facility create a sense of welcome? 3. Do we have the necessary equipment to allow everyone who arrives to participate fully? 4. Is our staff trained to provide a welcoming and rich experience for all participants? Inventory the ways in which your operation is or is not meeting these needs. For example, has your staff been trained to use person first language? It’s a key aspect of being welcoming to all. Person first language. How to best de- scribe someone with a disability? Some identify a person by their disability, such as “Caleb is autistic.” A “person first” approach emphasizes the person before the disability: “Caleb has autism.” The main premise with person first language is to communicate respectful- ly with a goal of providing equal access and opportunity to everyone. This is often the most respectful method of
• In what ways will this element/activity be exciting and challenging regard- less of ability? Design elements that allow for a variety of choices for participation while still maintaining the integrity of the chal- lenge and the safety guidelines. For example, a Nitro crossing rope swing activity with the option of a removable rolling trolley can be accessed by a par- ticipant who uses a wheelchair as well as those who do not. A giant swing that can be lowered so a participant can be attached before raising up avoids the need to climb a ladder. The adaptations may have larger up-front costs, but offer a greater long-term return since more patrons are able to participate. Staff Training. The staff we employ bring a variety of backgrounds, un- derstandings, and even judgments, so training that includes diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility helps to create a more welcoming and inclusive program. It begins with disability awareness. Depending on your activity’s design, develop training exercises to build a solid skill set tuned to your facility. Staff should fully grasp the process for inclu- sion at your site, too. How should they respond when someone with a disabili- ty needing specific gear or adaptations arrives unexpectedly? Give them a plan. Accepting the Challenge Becoming more welcoming and acces- sible to all may seem like a challenge in itself, but it can be accomplished with some key steps: 1. Consider how you will create a more universal course and program. 2. Conduct a course and program as- sessment using the design principles outlined earlier. 3. Develop a plan to make simple adjust- ments to your course and program. 4. Include staff training components as necessary. 5. Re-evaluate frequently. Let’s come together as an industry—in- cluding participants—to assess, design, and create a welcoming environment with opportunities for all.
communicating with anyone. However, the decision on how to identify should always be up to the individual. Element Design. One of the founda - tional aspects of challenge course design is that it provides options for a variety of strengths, while still helping participants to meet their goals for the activity. When designing for universal access, this means, for example, creat- ing walkways that allow a wheelchair to roll smoothly and have defined edges that help a participant with a visual impairment stay on the path. Providing a wheelchair accessible bathroom and signage that is in different languages, including Braille, is also key. On challenge courses, universal access may include ramp systems that lead to a platform, or hydraulic lifts that raise or lower a zip line. Wider platforms allow for easier movement when using an assistive device like a wheelchair or crutches. Climbing options might include a wider variety of handholds, textures, and colors. Packed trail sur- faces make for easier maneuvering. UD also has implications for signs, parking, restrooms, equipment, and more. Designers and builders should consult ADA guidelines in this process, but they can go further. Ask these questions: • How many options are there for someone to participate in this activity? • Have we considered all the possibili- ties for inclusion?
A climber in a specialized climbing harness utilizes an ascender bar for course access at Illinois State University. Photo credit: Experiential Systems
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