Universal Challenge

Making challenge courses accessible and usable for all

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This is a picture of a group of people standing on a wooden beam in the woods, as they hold hands to keep their balance.
Activities and Adaptations

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Activities & Adaptations

There are many activities and adaptations that can be utilized when planning a universal challenge program. While this section only provides a limited list of these activities and adaptations, more activities can be found in books listed on the resource page.

Facilitating challenge activities or ropes courses requires the proper training and experience. Please do not attempt to replicate any of the following activities until you have received training from a reputable source.

Each challenge activity may fall under one of three main categories: Ground-based Initiatives‚ Low Ropes Course‚ or High Ropes Course.

Ground Based Initiatives

This picture shows a group of teenagers‚ some wearing blindfolds‚ holding onto ropes as they complete a challenge activity.
A group of participants works together to complete a ground based challenge activity.

Ground based initiatives‚ as the name suggests‚ take place at ground level. Generally‚ these activities are used at the beginning of a program sequence to begin building rapport and trust among members of the group. These activities are an essential piece of the program because they lay the foundation and build the skills necessary to advance to the high and low ropes courses. Potential outcomes of these activities might be physical fitness‚ an understanding of the differences between cooperation and competition‚ and an ability to solve problems within a group.

Low Challenge Course

This picture shows a man wearing a safety harness and helmet as he walks up an incline beam.  A man and woman provide support to the participant by walking along the beam in the spotter stance.
A challenge participant walks up an incline beam with the support of fellow participants acting as safety spotters.

Low ropes course elements are activities that take place close to the ground‚ but might involve spotters to insure safety of an individual. These activities are mainly used to promote learning through experience in a team or group atmosphere. A group of people or an individual would be given the challenge of the particular element and once they complete the activity‚ a debrief would follow to capture meaning. Some of the potential outcomes when using a low ropes course include: an increase in communication between members of a group‚ and a realization of how to be efficient and productive within the group.

High Challenge Course

Two men‚ wearing safety harnesses and helmets‚ straddle a pole as they attempt to cross between two trees.
Two participants work together to get across the pole.

High ropes course elements are activities that take place high in the air which requires more extensive equipment to insure the safety of all involved. Helmets‚ harnesses‚ and belay ropes are utilized to create a system of protection so that even if a person falls off an element‚ the support system will keep them from contacting the ground. There are many uses for a high ropes course from recreational to purposeful programming. Courses are designed to provide a challenge to those partaking in the activity. Some potential outcomes include: an increase in self confidence‚ an increase in trust; and the understanding of the need to rely on others for support.

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