by Gary Eavey, Adventure Based Counselor
Challenge Programs enable people to take physical and emotional risks with
the support and encouragement of their peers. The use of challenge
courses can promote growth and independence. Participants feel a
sense of achievement in completing an activity they perceived beyond
their realm of success. For people with disabilities, the benefits
of a challenge course experience can be a unique journey of self-awareness
and personal growth-testing new abilities.
Traditionally, one of the barriers to participation in challenge programs
for people with disabilities has been the design and structure of
the challenge course itself and the delivery of the program. Unfortunately,
lack of access to the course and staff with minimal understanding
of adaptations can prevent full participation by people of all abilities
in what is truly a goal-oriented program focused on personal growth.
The Challenge Program at Bradford Woods Outdoor Education and Leadership
Center is a model program taking an universal approach to including
people of all abilities. People with disabilities are provided the
same opportunities to seek adventure and personal challenge as others.
Created in 1941 through the vision of John Bradford, an Indiana entrepreneur,
Bradford Woods is located on 2,400 acres in central Indiana serves
as one of the premiere outdoor recreation and education centers
in the United States. As part of Indiana University's School of
Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Bradford Woods strives
to fulfill the original wish of John Bradford, that his land to
be used "for charitable, educational, and recreational purposes."
For over a half century Bradford Woods has remained on the cutting
edge of outdoor programming.
Partnered with the National Center of Accessibility and the American Camping
Association, Bradford Woods provides the highest quality of outdoor
programs in combination with fully accessible trails and facilities.
Camp Riley, created in 1955 in collaboration with Riley Children's
Hospital and the Riley Memorial Association, serves youth with physical
and cognitive disabilities. Other programs for youth and adults
at Bradford Woods seek to "lead the leaders" in providing inclusive
action learning environments through Professional Development, Environmental
Education, Conferences and Retreats, and Challenge Programs. Bradford
Woods also reaches into communities to provide opportunities of
personal growth and learning for all participants.
A trademark of Challenge Programs at Bradford Woods is the use of Challenge
Courses including a high and low course to promote growth and independence.
The Challenge Courses are used throughout the season for programs.
It is not uncommon to pass by the wooded elements and find participants
of all ages being challenged in new ways, from a 76 year-old man
with cerebral palsy making his way to the top of the climbing tower
to a 12 year-old girl with muscular dystrophy comfortably perched
in a tree 25 ft above the earth-her first climbing experience.
Low Universal Course
Bradford Woods' Low Universal Course, built in 1997 by ABEE, Inc, is designed
as a fully accessible challenge course. Its greatest benefit is
that it creates opportunities for people with physical disabilities
to experience team building and adventure in an inclusive atmosphere.
The Low Universal Course consists of elements that engage participants
physically and mentally through the model "Challenge by Choice."
This allows group members to accept challenges at their own comfort
level and in turn increases their potential for success and personal
growth. Highlights of the Low Universal Course are the Wire Traverse,
Grapevine Walk, All Aboard, and accessible ramps for people who
use mobility devices.
|A Challenge Course participant makes his way through the Low Universal Course elements with staff. Photo courtesy of Bradford Woods.
The Wire Traverse and the Grapevine Walk have a unique design for supporting
the needs of partially and non-ambulatory participants on a challenge
course. Both have a support line above the element that participants
are connected to with a full body harness, webbing and caribiners.
This creates the opportunity of free movement during the challenge
and allows participants to use upper body strength and support from
group members to reach their goal during the activity.
The Grapevine Walk consists of a single wire connected from one platform
to another. Along the Grapevine Walk there are ropes hanging from
a top wire (grapevines) which enable participants to hold and balance
along the adventure. These ropes are spaced apart to make the element
challenging. In combination with the support line, these ropes create
a unique challenge for partially and non-ambulatory participants.
The Wire Traverse is similar but does not include the hanging ropes. Carefully
sequenced, the Wire Traverse challenges participants through concentrated
balance and group spotting.
The Low Universal Course meets the needs of a diverse community of learners
in inclusive action learning settings. It also is essential in preparing
participants for greater challenges that lie ahead.
High Universal Course
Like the Low Universal Course, the High Universal is designed to be fully
accessible. Moving from a low to high course participants can build
on their levels of trust and confidence in themselves and their
peers through high adventure and increased group challenges.
|Participants of the Challenge Program test their
"trust" while balancing on the High Woosey. Photo
courtesy of Bradford Woods
Key elements of the High Universal Course are the Matted Bridge, High Woosey,
High Grapevine and the Giant's Ladder. Each element towers 25 ft
above the ground. Participants are supported through team belays,
full body and seat harnesses and climbing helmets. Elbow and kneepads
are provided when necessary.
|Challenge Program staff assist a participant to
strap into the "booty bag."
Photo courtesy of Bradford Woods.
A unique fixture of the High Universal Course is the three-in-one pulley.
This system allows participants the option of being hoisted to their
challenge by group members. As they are lifted into the air they
sit in a "booty bag" until they reach the platform of the adventure.
All participants are given the option of climbing or using the three-in-one
The Matted Bridge is suspended high above the ground from one end
of the course to the other. Fitted securely in a full body harness
while mustering their courage and determination, participants must
negotiate across the bridge while placing trust in the group members
below holding their safety line. This mixture of trust and determination
are critical ingredients to every challenge on the High Universal
|A participant is hoisted in the booty
bag to the High Universal Course. Photo courtesy of Bradford
Trained leaders with expertise in challenge and inclusive action learning
facilitate each activity. The combination of highly trained staff
and state-of-the-art facilities provide a new venue of opportunity
for those seeking to challenge themselves in exciting and demanding
ways. Whether on high or low courses, all participants are guaranteed
opportunities for choice, growth, learning and, most importantly,
|After using the three-in-one pulley to reach the
Universal High Course, a participant receives instruction from
staff on the next activity. Photo courtesy Bradford Woods.
Bradford Woods - Indiana University's Outdoor and Leadership
5040 State Road 67 North
Martinsville, IN 46151
(765) 342 - 2915
39085 Foster Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53966
The Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT)
PO Box 255
Martin, Michigan 40970
(616) 685 0670
About the Author
Gary Eavey works as an Adventure Based Counselor for Challenge Based Therapeutic
Programs at Bradford Woods. His current focus is providing Therapeutic
Adventure for people with emotional disabilities and adjudicated
youth throughout the state of Indiana. He has an extensive background
working with people with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses
in recreation and adventure settings.
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