I had a large internal debate as a result from an interaction at the outdoor program the other day. A young man with some walking and mental disabilities has been using our program heavily for the last year, signing up for every trip he can. Yesterday he signed up for a backpacking trip, this is a very strenuous activity that requires walking with a pack all day. I'm not proud that my first instinct was to discourage him from this trip. In the past, short hikes have been a struggle, he is much slower than the rest of the participants and has a hard time keeping up. Often the leaders have to break up, one going with him and the rest with all the other participants which is difficult. He has a great attitude the whole time and is no problem besides that. The outdoor programs policy is to provide for disabilities within reason. The question was now, was this within reason? There would need to be another field staff on the trip to carry his pack and walk with him at the least. We also would not want to put him in the position where we can't get back from where we are. He was very exited and felt he could do it. At the end of the day there wasn't an outdoor staff available for the trip and so he could not participate. But it made me think about disability, the young man did not see himself as disadvantaged but we had to force it on him. It also made me wonder if there were any other opportunities out there for this young man and others.
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