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Universal Challenge Programming
"Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people,
to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design."
- Ron Mace
Over the course of the last decade the needs of people with disabilities gained
unprecedented attention in both a broad range of public and private services and programs.
The challenge course industry has also experienced tremendous growth.
Challenge courses have become more diverse the programs they provide and in the
people they serve. In order to meet the needs of a greater number of
participants, challenge courses have had to reevaluate the way the actual
courses are built and the way that challenge programs are designed and implemented.
Two participants work together to get through a maze of objects.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 did not specify guidelines for challenge courses, it does mandate reasonable accommodations for people
who have disabilities to access recreation programs and services in a manner that is
non-segregating. Current standards in challenge course design and programming were
created by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) and the Association for
Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) in order to not only meet this mandate but to
surpass it and to provide a way for individuals of all abilities to successfully
participate in challenge course opportunities.
Many challenge programs across the country have risen to the task of providing courses
that are usable by all people and to design programs that allow people of all abilities
to successfully participate in them. This is the concept of Universal Design.
"Universal design creates a broadly inclusive environment that effectively
blends a variety of design concepts‚ including accessible‚ into a range of
meaningful options for all users. In a universally designed program it is not
evident that modifications have been made for a specific person or group (Rogers‚ 2000)."
Universal design of challenge courses shapes not only the physical design of the
challenge elements but also the design of program delivery. A program that is
universally designed creates a broadly inclusive environment that transcends
disability rather than compensating for the lack of ability and can address a
multitude of program and participant goals.
For the purposes of this website we will discuss the concept of universal design.
But we will not get into challenge course design itself as this should be left to
the designers and installation experts. It is important to keep in mind that having
a universally designed challenge course will serve the greatest number of participants
as it exceeds accessibility and inclusion mandates and creates options within individual high and low
elements that extend the range of challenge to include
those participants who may need or want a lower level of difficulty in order
to engage in the experience within the group (Roger‚ 2000‚ p. 4).
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