With summer approaching, parents and camps alike are making plans for terrific, fun opportunities for young campers to learn new skills and grow in their confidence and abilities. The United States Attorney’s Office wants to take the opportunity to increase the understanding of camp organizers and parents about the law that pertains to camps which ensures that all children are welcome, including those with disabilities, and has been sharing the following information in many states.  

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that summer camps (both private and those run by towns or municipalities) provide reasonable modifications of their policies, practices, and procedures when necessary to enable campers with disabilities to participate fully in camp programs, unless the camp can demonstrate that the necessary modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the services and activities offered by the camp. 

Helpful tips for summer camps: 

  • A camp may not impose eligibility criteria for participation in its programs, services, or activities that either screen out or tend to screen out persons with disabilities, unless it can show that such requirements are necessary for the provision of the service, program, or activity. 
  • Camps may not exclude children based on disability and must evaluate each child individually. 
  • The ADA prohibits unnecessary inquiries into the existence of a disability. A camp’s questionnaires and medical documentation requirements as to a child’s ability to participate in various camp activities must be tied to ensuring safe participation in camp activities. The camp, however, may not use this information to screen out children with disabilities from admittance to the camp. 
  • Parents cannot be required to pay the cost of the reasonable modifications necessary for their child to fully participate in all camp activities. 
  • Camps should train staff in the requirements of the ADA. 
  • When necessary, camps must train staff to administer daily medicines required by campers with disabilities, such as insulin (via pump or shots) and emergency medications, such as Glucagon and Diastat, just as they do for the proper use of Epi-Pens, and oral medicines. 

“Summer camps – whether in a tent or a gym -  present tremendous growth opportunities for our children.  Camp is not only fun, but the camp experience offers the camper the opportunity to try new things, develop some independence, and gain self-confidence in the process,” said U.S. Attorney Drake (interim U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina). “All of our kids should have access to summer camps and in fact the law requires camps to provide equal opportunities to disabled children whose needs can be reasonably accommodated.”

Additional information about the ADA is available on the ACA website, at www.ada.gov, or through contacting the U.S. Attorney’s Office in your state.

Information referenced in this article is from a publication by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.