- Do facilities meet ACA Standards?
- The American Camping Association (www.acacamps.org)
is a national organization with expertise dedicated to the enrichment
of children’s lives through the camp experience. ACA has established
an accreditation program setting a professional industry baseline for
camp operation, program quality, health, and safety. When camp organizations
voluntarily agree to submit to the ACA accreditation process they agree
to meet, or exceed, over 250 standards, many of which apply specifically
to facilities. Standards on facilities include questions regarding emergency
exits in cabins, where flammable or hazardous materials are kept, if
the camp has blueprints for utility systems readily available, and so
forth. The facility standards give guidance to camp staff establishing
best practices in the overall preparedness of the camp’s sites,
staff, and programming as well as its buildings and food preparation.
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- Are buildings at your camp accessible?
camps are required to be accessible either as a program of a city, county
or state agency or as a public accommodation (either profit or non-profit)
under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Camps can also be required
to be accessible under state civil rights laws. There are a few exceptions
in some cases. For example, if a camp program is run by a religious
organization it may not be covered under the ADA. Camps covered by the
ADA are required to provide children with disabilities equal opportunity
to participate and benefit from the program. Camp facilities are required
to be accessible using the accessibility guidelines for buildings and
facilities incorporated into the ADA if the facilities are new construction,
altered or have barriers to access where removal of barriers is readily
achievable. Since many activities that occur at camp occur inside (even
at day camp) it is a good idea to ask your director what buildings campers
typically access and how … buildings such as restrooms, craft
centers, nature centers, gymnasiums, swimming pools, etc. Ask if these
buildings have ramps or accessible door openers. A specific area to
inquire about may be the pool. Does the camp have ‘zero-depth’
entry, a ramp, or an accessible chairlift? Also ask about emergency
exits and evacuation plans for campers with disabilities.
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- Are trails around the camp accessible?
- This is an extremely broad question. Since access needs vary widely
depending on the needs of the individual, it is best if you ask questions
of the director specific to your child’s needs. Are there accessible
routes to areas where activities will take place such as the waterfront,
archery range, picnic area, etc. Some children may need fully paved
pathways. Others may be fine on a less accessible trail such as one
that is covered in dirt or gravel. It is a good idea, however, to ask
the director to explain the type of trail system within the camp, such
as if there are trails leading to the most widely used activity sites
and buildings and what type of trail surface do they have (paved, dirt,
gravel). Some campers using assistive devices such as manual wheelchairs
may need assistance moving over unstable services such as gravel. Will
the camp staff provide this type of assistance? Knowing these types
of issues will help you and your child make an educated decision as
to the suitability of the camp you are exploring.
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- What are the Risk Management procedures relating to your facilities?
If the camp is ACA accredited much of this will be covered within standards relating to site and food service. It is still a good idea, however, to ask the director specifically about procedures relating to severe weather, fire extinguisher placement and availability, alarm systems, outside professional support such as fire and police, and training for staff to carry out these risk management policies and procedures.
If the camp you are considering is an overnight camp, you may also want to consider asking the camp director the following questions:
- What are the overnight accommodations for campers?
Residential camps have a wide variety of overnight accommodations from cabins where everything is self-contained to more primitive arrangements such as tents, teepees, or shelters. Depending on the needs of your child, it is a good idea to find out several things:
- Are cabins accessible? Do they have ramps or stairs?
- Do the cabins have electricity? How many electrical outlets are available in each cabin or site? This is especially important if your child utilizes a power wheelchair that needs to be charged or if he has a feeding machine or breathing machine that must be utilized while at camp.
- Are the cabins air-conditioned? This may be an issue if your child has a respiratory condition or other condition where they may need a break from extreme heat or summer’s humidity.
- Are the toilets and sinks accessible with clear floor space and grab bars?
- Do the bathing facilities have roll-in showers or tubs, depending on the preference of your camper? Are showerheads movable or adjustable for independent use?
Again, your need to ask these types of questions will vary greatly based upon the individual needs of your child. Children with severe disabilities and chronic illnesses are now seeking, and have a right to, quality camp experiences. These children may need to attend camp with electric wheelchairs, feeding machines or breathing machines, etc. Thus the availability of electrical outlets can be critical, as can amenities such as air conditioning.
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- Does your camp have accessible transportation?
- Since many camps conduct off-site trips, such as trips to the museum
or zoo, it is important to ask if your child can access the camp’s
vehicle. Is the camp bus or van equipped with a wheelchair lift? You
may also want to inquire when discussing transportation how the drivers
of these vehicles are trained and evaluated.
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