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Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge

Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge

The Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge provides an opportunity for scouts to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for individuals with disabilities. In this merit badge, scouts learn about the challenges faced by people with disabilities and how to create inclusive and accessible environments. By promoting empathy, respect, and awareness, scouts can contribute to fostering a more inclusive society.

Throughout the badge, scouts engage in activities that increase their knowledge and sensitivity toward disabilities. They explore the history and laws related to disabilities, gaining insights into the progress made in creating equal opportunities for all. Scouts also learn about different types of disabilities, their causes, and the impact they have on individuals’ lives.

Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge Requirements

1. Do the following:
(a) Define and discuss with your counselor the following disabilities awareness terms: disability, accessibility, adaptation, accommodation, invisible disability, person-first language, and inclusion.

(b) Explain why proper disability etiquette is important, and how it may differ depending on the specific disability. Give three examples.
2. Visit an agency that works with people with physical, mental, emotional, or educational disabilities. Collect and read information about the agency’s activities. Learn about opportunities its members have for training, employment, and education. Discuss what you have learned with your counselor.
3. Do TWO of the following:
(a) Talk with a Scout who has a disability and learn about the Scout’s experiences taking part in Scouting activities and earning different merit badges. Discuss what you have learned with your counselor.

(b) Talk to an individual who has a disability and learn about this person’s experiences and the activities in which this person likes to participate. Discuss what you have learned with your counselor.

(c) Learn how people with disabilities take part in a particular adaptive sport or recreational activity. Discuss what you have learned with your counselor.

(d) Learn about independent living aids such as service animals, canes, and augmentative communication devices such as captioned telephones and videophones. Discuss with your counselor how people use such aids.

(e) Plan or participate in an activity that helps others understand what a person with a visible or invisible disability experience. Discuss what you have learned with your counselor.
4. Do EITHER option A or option B:
Option A
. Visit TWO of the following locations and take notes about the accessibility to people with disabilities. In your notes, give examples of five things that could be done to improve upon the site and five things about the site that make it friendly to people with disabilities. Discuss your observations with your counselor.
(a) Your school
(b) Your place of worship
(c) A Scouting event or campsite
(d) A public exhibit or attraction (such as a theater, museum, or park)

Option B. Visit TWO of the following locations and take notes while observing features and methods that are used to accommodate people with invisible disabilities. While there, ask staff members to explain any accommodation features that may not be obvious. Note anything you think could be done to better accommodate people who have invisible disabilities. Discuss your observations with your counselor.
(a) Your school
(b) Your place of worship
(c) A Scouting event or campsite
(d) A public exhibit or attraction (such as a theater, museum, or park)
5. Explain what advocacy is. Do ONE of the following advocacy activities:
(a) Present a counselor-approved disabilities awareness program to a Cub Scout pack or other groups. During your presentation, explain and use person-first language.

(b) Find out about disabilities awareness education programs in your school or school system, or contact a disability advocacy agency. Volunteer with a program or agency for eight hours.

(c) Using resources such as disability advocacy agencies, government agencies, the internet (with your parent’s permission), and news magazines, learn about myths and misconceptions that influence the general public’s understanding of people with disabilities. List 10 myths and misconceptions about people with disabilities and learn the facts about each myth. Share your list with your counselor, then use it to make a presentation to a Cub Scout pack or other group.
6. Make a commitment to your merit badge counselor describing what you will do to show a positive attitude about and toward people with disabilities and to encourage positive attitudes among others. Discuss how your awareness has changed as a result of what you have learned.
7. Name five professions that provide services to people with disabilities. Pick one that interests you and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss what you learn with your counselor, and tell why this profession interests you.

The Answer for Requirement Number 1a

I’ll be happy to define and discuss these important disabilities awareness terms:

  1. Disability: A disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. Disabilities can be present from birth, or occur during a person’s lifetime. It’s important to remember that people with disabilities have the same basic human needs and rights as everyone else.
  2. Accessibility: Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people who experience disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e., unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers).
  3. Adaptation: In the context of disability, adaptation refers to the process or outcome of modifying an environment, task, or device to make it more usable for someone with a disability. This could include adding a ramp to a building for wheelchair users or providing written materials in braille for someone with visual impairments.
  4. Accommodation: Accommodation is similar to adaptation, but typically refers to changes or supports in a school or workplace that help individuals with disabilities to perform tasks or participate in activities to the same extent as their non-disabled peers. Examples might include extra time on tests for a student with a learning disability, or providing a sign language interpreter for a deaf employee in meetings.
  5. Invisible Disability: An invisible disability is a disability that is not immediately apparent. Some people with visual or auditory disabilities who do not wear glasses or hearing aids, or who use discreet hearing aids, may not be obviously disabled. Invisible disabilities can also include chronic illnesses like renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders if those diseases significantly impair normal activities of daily living.
  6. Person-First Language: Person-first language is a type of linguistic prescription which puts a person before a diagnosis, describing what a person “has” rather than asserting what a person “is”. It’s a way of promoting more positive and accepting ways of addressing people with disabilities. For example, instead of referring to someone as “a disabled person”, person-first language would refer to them as “a person with a disability”.
  7. Inclusion: Inclusion in the disability context refers to including people with disabilities in everyday activities and in their communities. It is achieved through practices and policies that identify and remove barriers to full participation. Inclusion can be seen in schools, where children with disabilities are educated in the same classrooms as those without disabilities, or in the workplace, where accommodations are made to allow employees with disabilities to perform their jobs.

I hope this explanation gives a good overview of these terms and their importance in the context of disability awareness.

The Answer for Requirement Number 1b

Proper disability etiquette is important because it fosters respect, dignity, and equality for individuals with disabilities. It helps create an environment of understanding and acceptance, reducing the potential for discomfort, awkwardness, or even discrimination.

Etiquette may vary depending on the specific disability. This is due to the diverse experiences and needs of individuals with different types of disabilities. For example, the appropriate etiquette for interacting with a person with a visual impairment may be quite different from the appropriate etiquette for interacting with a person with a hearing impairment or cognitive disability.

Here are three examples illustrating how etiquette can differ based on the disability:

Disability TypeProper Etiquette
Visual ImpairmentWhen communicating with someone with a visual impairment, identify yourself before you start speaking and announce when you are leaving. If they are using a guide dog, remember not to pet or distract the dog without permission. It’s also okay to use phrases that refer to vision during conversation, such as “see you later”.
Hearing ImpairmentFor people with hearing impairments, make sure you face them directly when speaking, and do not cover your mouth, as they may be reading your lips. Speak clearly but don’t exaggerate your speech or volume. If the person uses sign language and an interpreter is present, address the person directly, not the interpreter.
Mobility ImpairmentWhen interacting with a person with a mobility impairment, do not touch or lean on their mobility aids (like a wheelchair) without their permission. Always ask before offering assistance, they’ll let you know if help is needed. Speak directly to the individual, not to someone nearby as if the person with the disability were not there.

The Answer for Requirement Number 2

I can provide you with an example of how to conduct such a visit using an imaginary organization called “Ability Support Agency” which supports people with various types of disabilities. Please remember to actually visit an agency or do a virtual visit or interview in order to fulfill this requirement.

Agency Name: Ability Support Agency

Description of Activities:

Ability Support Agency provides a variety of services to support individuals with physical, mental, emotional, and educational disabilities. Their activities include:

  1. Education Services: They provide educational support to children and adults with disabilities. This includes specialized training for teachers and personal academic support for students.
  2. Training Programs: The agency offers programs aimed at helping individuals with disabilities acquire new skills, such as computer literacy, vocational training, and life skills training.
  3. Employment Services: The agency helps connect individuals with disabilities with potential employers. They also provide job training and support in resume writing and interview skills.
  4. Mental Health Services: They offer counseling and therapy services to individuals dealing with emotional or mental health challenges.
  5. Community Integration: The agency organizes events and activities to promote social interaction and inclusion within the wider community.

Opportunities for Training, Employment, and Education:

  1. Training: The agency’s training programs include vocational training in areas like carpentry, tailoring, and culinary arts. There is also a strong focus on digital skills training, recognizing the growing importance of these skills in today’s job market.
  2. Employment: Ability Support Agency works with local businesses to promote the employment of individuals with disabilities. They advocate for equal job opportunities and provide ongoing support for individuals who secure employment.
  3. Education: The agency provides support to students with disabilities, ensuring they receive necessary adaptations in their learning environment. They also work with educational institutions to facilitate inclusive education.

Discussion with Counselor:

To fulfill this part of the requirement, you would have a discussion with your counselor about what you’ve learned. This could include talking about the importance of inclusion and equal opportunity, how organizations like Ability Support Agency provide crucial support to people with disabilities, and the challenges and successes you’ve learned about in their work.

Please replace this example with the actual information you gather from your visit to a real agency. The format can serve as a guide for the type of information you may want to collect and discuss.

Also Read: American Culture Merit Badge

The Answer for Requirement Number 3c,d

I can provide an example response to two of the tasks 3c and 3d.

(c) Learn how people with disabilities take part in a particular adaptive sport or recreational activity.

Let’s look at the sport of wheelchair basketball as an example of an adaptive sport.

Wheelchair basketball is a sport that has been adapted to allow individuals with disabilities affecting lower limb mobility to play. The rules closely follow the standard rules of basketball with a few modifications specific to wheelchair movement. For instance, a “traveling” violation in wheelchair basketball occurs when the player touches their wheels more than twice after receiving or dribbling the ball.

Players use specially designed sports wheelchairs that are more responsive and allow for quicker movements. Athletes must have excellent upper body strength and agility to maneuver the chair and throw the ball.

Wheelchair basketball is a highly competitive sport that has been part of the Paralympic Games since 1960. It allows individuals with disabilities to participate in a team sport and fosters both physical fitness and social interaction.

(d) Learn about independent living aids such as service animals, canes, and augmentative communication devices such as captioned telephones and videophones.

Service Animals: Service animals, like guide dogs, are trained to assist people with disabilities in daily tasks. This might involve guiding a person who has a visual impairment, alerting a person with a hearing impairment to sounds, or doing work for a person who has a mobility impairment, such as fetching items, pulling a wheelchair, or turning switches on/off.

Canes: There are different types of canes used by individuals with disabilities. White canes are typically used by individuals with visual impairments as a tool for independent navigation, allowing them to detect obstacles in their path. Other types of canes can provide support for individuals with mobility impairments, helping them maintain balance while walking.

Augmentative Communication Devices: These are devices that help individuals communicate more effectively if they have speech or language difficulties. Captioned telephones provide real-time text captions of the current conversation so individuals with hearing impairments can read what’s being said. Videophones allow people who use sign language to communicate over video calls, enabling visual communication.

For your actual tasks, remember to replace these examples with real-life experiences or interviews. You’ll learn more from first-hand experience and direct interactions.

The Answer for Requirement Number 4a

Option A:

LocationAccessibility ObservationsImprovement Suggestions
School1. Ramps present for wheelchair access.

2. Elevator installed for access to upper floors.

3. Braille signage for the visually impaired.

4. Accessible restrooms.

5. Special education department for personalized academic support.
1. Install more handrails along corridors for students with mobility issues.

2. Improve lighting in some areas for better visibility.

3. Implement a clearer signage system to make navigation easier.

4. Train all staff in disability awareness and etiquette.

5. Provide more assistive technology for students with disabilities.
Public Park1. Wheelchair-accessible paths.

2. Accessible restrooms.

3. Ramps to picnic areas.

4. Quiet zones for individuals with sensory sensitivities.

5. Well-maintained green space for guide dogs.
1. Improve the quality of the pathways for smoother wheelchair navigation.

2. Install more seating areas for those unable to stand or walk long distances.

3. Increase the number of accessible parking spaces.

4. Install tactile paving for visually impaired individuals.

5. Provide more shaded areas for individuals sensitive to sunlight.

Remember, the objective of such visits is to encourage you to think about accessibility from the perspective of people with different types of disabilities. In a real scenario, you should visit the locations and take your own notes based on your observations and interactions with staff or people using the facilities.

Discuss your findings with your counselor, who will help guide you in understanding the principles of accessibility and potential improvements for the locations you visited.

The Answer for Requirement Number 5c

Advocacy refers to activities that aim to bring about social and political change by influencing decision-making processes. Advocacy can occur on many different levels, from individual self-advocacy to group or systemic advocacy.

In the context of disability, advocacy often involves working to promote the rights and welfare of people with disabilities, aiming to improve quality of life, access to services, and social and political inclusion.

Below is a table listing 10 common myths and misconceptions about people with disabilities, along with the facts that debunk each myth.

1. People with disabilities are always in need of help.Many people with disabilities lead independent lives and are fully capable of taking care of themselves. Assistance should be offered, but not assumed.
2. People with disabilities cannot work.People with disabilities can and do work in all types of jobs. They may require certain accommodations, but are capable of productive work.
3. All people with disabilities use wheelchairs.Disabilities come in a wide variety and many are invisible or do not require mobility aids.
4. People with disabilities are brave and inspirational for doing everyday tasks.People with disabilities are just living their lives, and shouldn’t be labeled as ‘inspirational’ or ‘brave’ for doing everyday things.
5. All people with the same disability have the same needs and experiences.Everyone is unique, and the experience of disability varies widely between individuals.
6. People with disabilities cannot lead a happy life.Disability does not preclude happiness. People with disabilities can lead fulfilling and happy lives, just like anyone else.
7. People with disabilities are sick.Disability does not necessarily mean the person is ill or suffering. Many people with disabilities are healthy and well.
8. People with disabilities are less capable than people without disabilities.People with disabilities are not less capable; they may simply do things in a different way or require certain accommodations.
9. All people with disabilities have a visible disability.Many disabilities are invisible or not immediately apparent. This doesn’t make them any less valid.
10. If you don’t have a disability, you can’t understand what it’s like to have one.While it’s true that personal experience provides unique insight, everyone can develop empathy and understanding for the experiences of people with disabilities.

Once you’ve discussed this table with your counselor, you can use it as a basis for a presentation to a Cub Scout pack or other group. You could even create an interactive quiz to engage your audience and reinforce the truths behind these myths.

The Answer for Requirement Number 6

I can provide you with an example of how you might respond to this prompt:

“Dear Counselor,

Throughout the course of earning this merit badge, my understanding and perspective on disabilities has changed and grown. I’ve learned that people with disabilities are not defined by their disabilities, but are unique individuals with their own strengths and abilities. They desire and deserve respect, understanding, and equal opportunities just like everyone else.

Here’s my commitment:

  1. Personal Interaction: I will treat all individuals with kindness and respect, recognizing that everyone is unique and brings their own value to the world. When I meet someone with a disability, I will not make assumptions about what they can or cannot do.
  2. Promotion of Inclusivity: In group activities, including Scout events, I will encourage the inclusion of those with disabilities, ensuring activities are accessible to everyone. If I notice instances of exclusion or discrimination, I will speak up.
  3. Awareness-Raising: I will share what I’ve learned with my peers, friends, and family. This could be through presentations, casual conversations, or social media posts. I will debunk myths and misconceptions about people with disabilities when I encounter them.
  4. Continued Learning: I will continue to educate myself about different types of disabilities and the experiences of those who have them. I will listen to and learn from people with disabilities, respecting their personal experiences and perspectives.
  5. Advocacy: If I see opportunities to advocate for improved accessibility or rights for people with disabilities, I will do so, whether that’s in my school, community, or even on a larger scale.

This badge has reminded me that it’s important to consider the world from various perspectives. It’s easy to overlook obstacles and challenges others face when they don’t directly impact us. However, understanding and empathy are vital for a kinder, more inclusive world. I commit to carrying these lessons forward in my Scouting journey and beyond.”

This is just an example. Your own commitment might look different, depending on what you’ve learned and how you feel you can best contribute to promoting a positive attitude towards people with disabilities.

Also Read: American Business Merit Badge

The Answer for Requirement Number 7

There are many professions dedicated to providing services to people with disabilities. Here are five examples:

  1. Special Education Teacher
  2. Occupational Therapist
  3. Speech-Language Pathologist
  4. Rehabilitation Counselor
  5. Accessibility Consultant

Let’s choose the profession of an Occupational Therapist (OT) to explore in depth.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists help people across all ages to perform everyday activities, which they might struggle with due to physical, developmental, social, or emotional problems. They develop individualized plans for each patient to help them achieve independence in all facets of their lives.

A master’s degree or doctoral degree in occupational therapy is required. Programs are typically two to three years and include a period of supervised fieldwork.All states require occupational therapists to be licensed or registered. Requirements include graduating from an accredited program and passing a national examination.Some occupational therapists choose a specialty, such as pediatrics or geriatrics, and gain experience working in that area. Others may work with individuals who have specific conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or spinal cord injuries.

As an example, you could say this profession interests you because you have always enjoyed helping others and you are intrigued by the wide range of people that occupational therapists work with.

You appreciate that occupational therapists do not just focus on the physical aspects of health, but also the emotional and social aspects, and you feel that this holistic approach aligns with your own values and interests.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge?

The Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge is an award earned by Scouts who demonstrate understanding and empathy towards people with disabilities. It involves learning about different types of disabilities, understanding how people with disabilities adapt to living independently, and exploring ways to improve accessibility.

Why should I consider earning the Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge?

Earning the Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge can help you understand the experiences of people with disabilities, improve your empathy skills, and encourage inclusivity. The knowledge you gain can be applied in various aspects of life and contribute to fostering a more accepting and understanding society.

What kind of agency should I visit for requirement 2 of the Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge?

The agency you visit should work with individuals with physical, mental, emotional, or educational disabilities. This could be a special education school, a rehabilitation center, a nonprofit organization, or a government agency that provides services for people with disabilities.

What does requirement 3 mean by “adaptive sport or recreational activity”?

An adaptive sport or recreational activity is one that has been modified to allow individuals with disabilities to participate. Examples might include wheelchair basketball, adaptive skiing, or goalball for individuals with visual impairments.

What are some examples of independent living aids for requirement 3?

Independent living aids can include a wide variety of tools and technologies, such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, hearing aids, Braille readers, service animals, and assistive software or devices for communication.

What does requirement 4 mean by “accessibility”?

Accessibility refers to how easy it is for all people, including those with disabilities, to use a facility or service. This can refer to physical accessibility, such as having wheelchair ramps, or other types of accessibility, like providing information in Braille for those with visual impairments.

What should I do for the advocacy activities in requirement 5 of the Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge?

This requirement involves learning about misconceptions regarding disabilities and ways to address them. This could involve research, discussing with people who work in disability advocacy, and creating a presentation or other advocacy materials to educate others.

I'm a Mechanical Engineer and lifelong Eagle Scout. My passion for scouting guides my writing, aiming to inspire fellow Scouts on their path. Thanks for reading, and best wishes on your journey to Eagle!