Access To Programs

Organizations are allowed to ask applicants questions about whether or not they can participate in the program. Questions that elicit information about the applicant’s health or medical conditions allow the organization to understand any health concerns or limitations and consider risk-management issues.

In addition, this screening is consistent with the organization’s effort to align with its own non-discriminatory safety/risk-management focused EEC (if it has developed those), and with its need to determine whether or not it can implement modifications to allow access.

As described above, qualifying organizations are required to allow people with disabilities integrated access to their programs—and make reasonable modifications, if necessary.

Access is not required, however, if it would:

  • Result in an undue burden on the entity
  • Fundamentally alter the nature of the program or activity
  • Compromise the safety of others attending the program.

Pair With Medical Screening

To better manage risks, inherent or otherwise, many camps obtain information from prospective campers (and/or require campers to obtain a physician’s examination), on various aspects of the campers’ health before these individuals participate in programs.

Wherever your camp is on the “screening” spectrum, obtaining some medical information from campers/families assists the camp in understanding—ahead of time—certain medical issues relating to camper participation and emergency-response issues[iv], and allows camps to address potential ADA modifications for those with disabilities (if applicable).

Developing EEC can be an excellent way to supplement existing “medical screening.” EEC can back up and ”tie-in” to your medical inquiries, equipping camp leaders with proactive solutions to avoid difficult issues arising at the front gate on opening day.

Importantly, EEC will provide direction to an inquiring public, giving the prospective camper and family the chance to assess upfront—not only whether the camper meets the camp’s essential “participation” criteria[v], but whether the camper wants to (“Is this the camp for me?”).

Medical screening and EEC can be combined to increase an accurate, informed, and healthy information exchange between camp and camper, resulting in attendees who are able and excited to participate, and staff that understand the general make-up of the group.

Commonly, organizations in the business of providing adventure or recreational activities—like camps—raise concerns about providing individuals with disabilities access to activities already infused with inherent and other risks. Camps fear that allowing such access may create increased risks for both the individual as well as for other campers.

The reality is that risk-management concerns can exist whether a particular camper has a protected disability or not. Developing EEC in tandem with thoughtful collection of medical information can be a proactive and common-sense way to approach access to your programs for all campers—not just for those with disabilities.

As a result, camps can endeavor to comply with any ”access” legal requirements, provide avenues for healthy information exchange, and be better prepared to appropriately address risk-management considerations for all campers.

*This article contains general information only, and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Camps and related organizations should consult with a licensed attorney regarding application of relevant state and federal law, as well as considerations regarding their specific business or operation.

Catherine Hansen-Stamp is a practicing attorney in Golden, Colo. She consults with and advises recreation- and adventure providers and related organizations on law, liability, and risk-management issues. She speaks and writes frequently on these issues, both regionally and nationally. She is a member of both the Wyoming and Colorado Bar Associations and can be reached at (303) 232-7049, or

———————————————————————————- [i] All references to the ADA come from U.S. law, 42 USC 12101, et seq., accompanying regulations and Technical Assistance Manuals.

[ii] ADA Title III contains a limited exemption for religious organizations and private clubs.  42 U.S.C. 12187.

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