logo for UM Committee on Disability Ministries
May 2013Vol. 3  No. 3
beach wheelchair with large tires
Beach wheelchair, Camp Magruder, OR/ID


of the

United Methodist

 Disability Connection


Greetings in Christ!   


At the recent United Methodist Camp and Retreat Leader's Gathering in Florida, I was impressed with the growing interest in making camps more accessible and inclusive. Camp directors were eager to place their camp "on the map" and share what they were doing to make their camps work for persons with disabilities.  Over 80 camps completed a survey to help us begin to build a database of camps that are accessible, have inclusive programming, or reach out to campers with specialized programs.  Many also host camps for community groups such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, American Cancer Society, and Hospice. Other camps partner with organizations that serve youth with cardiac conditions, diabetes, or blood disorders. 

accessible dock with edge protection and canoe boarding station
Accessible dock and canoe launch, Camp Magruder


Camp offers children and youth a chance to encounter God in the natural world, in the love shared in community, and in stories told around the campfire.  Let's continue to work together to increase the number of camps where campers of all abilities can form friendships and grow in their faith.  


Lynn Swedberg, Editor

In This Issue
Accessible Challenge Courses
Autism and Camp Workshop
ADA Pool Access Regulations
Camps Contemplate Creating Jobs, Housing for Workers with Disabilities
Upcoming Events
Mental Health Resources
Quick Links

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Accessible Challenge Courses Bring Benefits to All
Easily the most visible change in camp programming in the past 20 years has been the rapid increase in the number of challenge courses. The average camp visitor will notice the complex structures and likely assume that there is no way that the zip lines, climbing towers, and rope courses could be accessible to campers with disabilities. That assumption has been challenged by a growing number of our United Methodist camps. 
Camp Highroad (VA) offers a special harness with a built-in seat for their zip line and other young woman using harness seat on zip line features. While most campers can get by with the support offered by standard safety harnesses, since they are designed for full support should someone slip, a few campers need the seat harness. One camper who benefited has no arms or legs, but was able to participate because of the seat.  
Camp Highroad Program Director Adam Davis states "The campers' eyes light up when they are on it. They love the whole thing." Adam introduces team building exercises by referring to the parts of the body story from 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. "I tell them we are all different parts of the body, each with its own function. Without each part the body would die." Having a camper with a disability on the team adds to the complexity of working together so that all complete the element. When they succeed, it brings them closer together faster, and gives them a sense of accomplishment. Adam also notes that the typical teens learn to listen to the camper with the disability, who usually has the best ideas for how to solve the problems. The team-building experience often translates into friendships that last beyond the time at camp.  
Other camps that have added accessible challenge course features include Camp Tekoa (W NC) and Camp Aldersgate (KY). 
For more information refer to articles on Challenge Course Operations and Universal Challenge from the National Center on Accessibility. 
Autism and Camp Workshop Addresses Increasing Need
Camps are requesting training as they see more and more participants on the autism spectrum. Sally DePalma of Special Connections at St. James UMC in Tampa joined Lynn Swedberg in leading "Making Camp Work for Persons with Autism" at the Camp and Retreat Leader's Gathering. Participants were Lynn and Sally teaching autism workshop eager to learn how to better serve the children with autism who are showing up at camp, often with minimal advance notice. 
The workshop covered typical characteristics associated with autism and how to accommodate these differences within a camp setting. The communication, behavior, and sensory strategies discussed gave the attendees concrete tools to take back to their settings.   

pieces of the puzzle describing characteristics of autism For example, a portable tent can be used for a child who needs to take a break from an overstimulating activity. Camp staff can nurture the spiritual development of campers who struggle with verbal concepts, using pictures, repetition, rhythm, and drama to teach faith stories. Prayers are more tangible when campers write out their requests, leaders add actions and hand motions, and an empty chair is set aside for Jesus.  
To access the Power Point presentation for training purposes, and to download the accompanying handouts go to UMCRM and click on the names of the three files.
ADA Pool Access Regulations Impact Camps
As non-profit agencies that do business with the public, our church camps and retreat centers are included under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Effective January 31, 2013, swimming pools need to comply with new ADA regulations. This means that all newly constructed pools must have one means of pool access, either a lift or a sloped entry, if the perimeter of the pool wall is less than 300 linear feet. Larger pools must have a lift or sloped entry as the primary means of access, and a second system as well. If a sloped entry (ramp with railings) is chosen as the access method, the camp should have a water wheelchair available for use.  
Bradford Woods accessible swimming pool
Lift and sloped entry at Bradford Woods camp, IN
Camps with existing pools need to plan to add means of access as soon as this is readily achievable. With lifts that meet ADA standards priced under $4000, most conferences can find a way to purchase them. Conference Disability Concerns committees can partner with camps by assessing sites and raising funds. Priority should go to sites that have an accessible path of travel to the pool, in camps that are making other features accessible.  Kudos to Gretna Green (E PA) and Camp Indicoso (IN), camps that have already installed pool lifts.
No standards exist for lake access. However, as camps strive to make all aspects of their programs accessible, many can add either a dock-based lift or a sloped entrance to the lakeside swimming area. 
More information is available from the Access Board, the Great Plains ADA Center, and the National Center on Accessibility.
Camps Contemplate Creating Jobs, Housing for Workers with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Two camp and retreat directors shared their vision of creating supported housing and employment for persons with disabilities.  One center is seeking grant funding in order to begin.  The centers have year-round work in housekeeping, kitchen services, and gardening--skills that could be readily taught to workers with intellectual disabilities. Adding a housing component would meet a need found in most communities. Centers would want to partner with community agencies for help with logistics. One such organization is Putting Faith to Work:

"Unemployment and underemployment are important issues today. Organizations that typically provide support are stretched thin. Many needs go unmet. More faith-based organizations are providing employment-related supports to members and to the public.  For people with disabilities, work issues are especially difficult to deal with. However, churches and other faith-based organizations that provide employment services are finding they do not have expertise to support people with disabilities as well as they would like.


work crew busy painting With a Kessler Foundation grant and encouragement, the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) at the University of Minnesota provides customized training and consultation. The project, Putting Faith to Work, currently works with congregations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. They are developing a model that supports individuals, volunteers, and professionals to engage and provide employment supports to people with disabilities.


'We have found congregations to be very interested in exploring the idea of supporting people with disabilities.  When economic conditions are difficult, people with disabilities are often the ones most affected.  Employment supports are  a valued way to be involved,' says project coordinator Joe Timmons."


To learn more about Putting Faith to Work, contact Joe Timmons at 612-624-5650 or email him.   Article submitted by Joe Timmons and Debby Newman, MN.


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Upcoming Events

Ready, Set Summer: Webinar                                                                  June 5, 2013

Supporting inclusion in day camp settings, using positive behavioral supports, working with familiies, and providing accommodations so that all children can participate together. 

6:30 pm to 8:30pm PST. Offered by Kids Included Together.   Free.


Welcoming People with Disabilities in Faith Communities            June 10 -15, 2013

Shawnee, KS, and Kansas City, MO

This week-long intensive course is a cooperative initiative between Central Baptist Theological Seminary and University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute for Human Development.  For more information download the flyer or contact Steven Guinn.


Widening the Welcome Conference 2013                                              June 27, 2013

Long Beach, CA

"Inclusion for All," with UM pastors Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder from Men

logo for Widening the Welcome Inclusion for All

tal Health Ministries and Rev. Kathy Reeves, North American coordinator for Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN), as keynote speakers.  Sponsored by the UCC Disabilities Ministries and UCC Mental Illness Network but planned by an ecumenical group for an interfaith audience. For registration and information see Widening the Welcome.


4th Annual Summer Institute on Theology and Disability                  July 15-19, 2013 

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

"In God There Is Diversity, But No Division: Building Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration through Theology and Disability", with speakers from various countries and faiths.  Participants can attend Monday overview or the full week.  Sponsored by The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities and the Bethesda Institute. More information is on-line at the Bethesda Institute


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Mental Health Resources 

In recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Church and Society created a bulletin insert for use by local churches.  Go to the website to download the insert and learn more.  

logo from bulletin insert showing head outline and mental illness facts
image from bulletin insert

Learn how your congregation can becoming a Caring Community, which works to:

            • Educate congregations and the community in public discussion about mental illness and work to reduce the stigma experienced by those suffering.
            • Covenant to understand and love persons with mental illness & their families.
            • Welcome persons and their families into the faith community.
            • Support persons with mental illness and their families through providing awareness, prayer, and respect.
            • Advocate for better access, funding and support for mental health treatment and speak out on mental health concerns.
Please make sure that your church uses the insert as a stepping stone to congregational education and outreach. May persons affected by mental illness be readily welcomed and included in all our congregations!
The Interfaith Advocacy Coalition of the AAPD issued a 17-page Grounded in Faith: Resources on Mental Health and Gun Violence in April. 


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Are you receiving our Facebook posts?  Webmaster Tim Vermande posts notices and information almost daily so you can stay on top of disability-related information.  To ensure that you see the posts, follow the steps outlined in How to Never Miss a Post from Your Favorite Facebook Pages.  


Make sure you have "Liked" our new page, United Methodist Committee on Disability Ministries.  We have 182 people following us, which means that many of the 506 old Task Force page followers haven't yet made the transition.  We will be closing the old page soon, and don't want to lose you!


Keep us posted on the steps you are taking to make your camps and churches more inclusive and accessible.   


If you are creating a Disability Committee display at your Annual Conference session this year and want a few balloons with our logo, let us know and we can mail them to you. You may also want to print copies of the revised Annual Accessibility Audit to share, and ask interested people to sign up to receive this newsletter.


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Thanks for all you do!  




United Methodist Committee 

on DisAbility Ministries