Universal Challenge

Making challenge courses accessible and usable for all

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This photo shows a man wearing a helmet and sun glasses‚ as he pulls on a handlebar to raise himself up to the high challenge element.
What is Challenge?

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The Benefits of Participating in Challenge Programs

This photo shows a challenge course participant smiling as he takes a rest after climbing to the first platform on the accessible climbing tower.
Challenge participant takes a break after climbing to the first platform on the accessible climbing tower. (Photo by Bradford Woods.)

Participating in challenge programs can be beneficial in many ways as participants are pushed to their limits physically, mentally, and emotionally. Challenge programs provide adventure that engages participants fully in activities that are typically outside of the everyday routine. People with disabilities have often either been discouraged from participating in these types of activities due to the perception that they were not "up to the challenge" due to their disability or due to discouragement by those who view themselves as their protectors (Terry, 1995). Universal challenge is a vehicle for people with disabilities to experience the adventure that has long been denied them and to see exactly what participating in challenge programs can lead to:

Personal Growth

Participant sits in booty-bag as he is hoisted up to the high rise platform by fellow 
group members.
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This video clip shows a participant being raised up to a high challenge element by fellow participants as he sits in a booty-bag. Video courtesy of Bradford Woods.

Participants can increase self-awareness by interacting outside of a disability-oriented context: by exploring their physical‚ intellectual and social abilities; and by experiencing how one’s behavior effects others.


Participants are placed in an environment in which the emphasis is on experimentation, creativity and in learning by doing and reflecting on the experience.

Environmental awareness

Participants can enhance their understanding of the natural environment and increase their sense of responsibility for its preservation. A person with a disability may shift his or her beliefs about the outdoors as a result of positive experiences in that environment.

Other benefits of participating in challenge programs:

In this photo a group locks arms as they work through an activity called the Great Divide
A group of challenge participants work on their communication and teamwork skills as they traverse the “Great Divide”
  • Participants get to try new things and learn new skills that they can take back to their every day lives.
  • Participants learn and practice teamwork skills (communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution).
  • Participants can learn to trust others and themselves.
  • Participants develop and work towards their personal goals (self-determination and independence).
  • Participants can increase their self-image and self-confidence levels as they gain a sense of personal achievement through participation.

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