To the Order of the Arrow community:
On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. This landmark civil rights legislation “prohibits discrimation and guarantees that people with with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life.”
The Boy Scouts of America has been committed to maintaining an accessible environment for Scouts with disabilities since our founding in 1910. This commitment includes charging council commissioner staff and/or Special Needs and Disabilities Committees with supporting units with eliminating barriers to participation, providing program resources, hosting virtual and in-person trainings for unit leaders, and providing support for parents and leaders of Scouts with disabilities, and more. These strategies help to ensure that Scouts with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as Scouts without disabilities.
As Order of the Arrow members, we accept an Obligation to be “unselfish in service and devotion to the welfare of others.” This commitment includes ensuring that all of our fellow members thrive. I encourage you to check out the resources linked below to learn more about how you can maintain an accessible lodge environment.
Below, you will also find reflections from Eleanor Phillips and Warren Wenner, two long-time Scouters who’ve worked tirelessly to advance the BSA’s commitment to inclusion and accessibility. I’m grateful for their leadership – and for the leadership provided by all Order of the Arrow members with disabilities. Your service makes Scouting and our society better.
Yours in service,
Dwayne Fontenette, Jr.
National Order of the Arrow Committee | Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Serving Scouts with Disabilities - BSA Resource Hub
- The Inclusion Toolbox
- From Scouting Magazine:
Voices from Community
The Order of the Arrow is proud to have Scouts with disabilities serving at every level of our program. We invited a couple of accessibility leaders to share their own reflections to mark the Americans with Disabilities Act Day.
City, State: Wesley Chapel (Tampa), Florida
Current and Recent Scouting Roles: Current: Chair of the National Special Needs and Disabilities Committee (NSNDC), Member of the National Program Development Committee, NCAP Visitation Team Member. Previous; National Camping Committee, National Cub Scouting Committee, Southern Region NCAP Committee, Scout Executive, Area Director, Lodge Staff Adviser, Section Staff Adviser
Chair of the Southern Region Area 3 Visitation Team and Vice Chair of NSNDC. I was a professional Scouter for 34 years including serving as a Scout Executive twice and an Area Director. I have also served as a Lodge Staff Adviser, Supreme Chief of the Fire and as a Section Staff Adviser to two Sections that later became one and I served as the staff adviser to that Section too.
Scouting Honors: Eagle Scout, National Woods Services Award, H. Roe Bartle Training Award, Cliff Dochterman Award, Special Needs Scouting Service Award, Phlimont Training Center’s Master Track Knot & Device Awards, the Professional Circle Award, James E West Fellow, and Vigil Honor.
Why does Americans with Disabilities Act Day matter? What does it mean to you? ADA is one of our country's most comprehensive civil rights legislation. It guarantees that all people with disabilities have the same opportunities that everyone has to take part in the mainstream of America. It means that my disabled Eagle Scout & Brotherhood member son and others with disabilities have the same rights and - more importantly - the same opportunities as anyone. It opened all areas of public accommodations.
What message would you like to share with members of the OA who have special needs or disabilities? I would like to share that the membership of the Boy Scouts of America is made up of about 12% of Scouts with Disabilities and Special Needs. From the start of the BSA in 1910, Scouts with disabilities and special needs have always been welcome in Scouting. It did not have to take an act of Congress for Scouting. Our 1st Chief Scout Executive James E West was disabled himself. As an Arrowman, James West was awarded the OA's Distinguished Service Award (DSA) in 1940 as one of the original 11 Order of the Arrow members.
Most students with disabilities are now mainstreamed in schools. We need to ask them to join Scouting. Many of them and their parents may not know that they can join Scouting. The National Special Needs and Disabilities Committee hears this all of the time from parents who would like to have their son or daughter join Scouting. As Arrowmen we need to reach out to them and make this happen for them. Please ask your friends at school to join Scouting this fall.
City, State: St. Peters, Missouri
Current and Recent Scouting Roles: Scoutmaster, Assistant District Commissioner for Special Needs, Unit Commissioner, Greater St Louis Area Special Needs Committee Training Chair, World Jamboree Additional Needs Staff, NOAC 2018 Special Needs presenter, NOAC 2022 Admonition Team Scouts With Disabilities Adviser
Scouting Honors: District Award of Merit, Silver Beaver, OA Vigil, Den Leader Award, Den Leader Coach Award, Cub Scouter Training Award, Vivian Harris Award, Scouters Training Award, Scouters Key, Adult Religious Award, Spirit of Scouting Award – Special Needs
Why does Americans with Disabilities Act Day matter? What does it mean to you? All people deserve the opportunity to have equal access to all activities. People with disabilities have a lot to offer and are important.
What message would you like to share with members of the OA who have special needs or disabilities? Scouts with Disabilities are important in all Order of the Arrow events being planned, whether on a local or national basis. Please speak up and let us know your needs so that we can plan appropriately. Careful pre-event planning is the key to accomplishing this, and it is important that all registration and promotional information includes a way to address special needs. Come visit us in the Scouts with Disabilities Admonition Team area at NOAC where you will find a calm supportive culture. The area is designed to include different zones, such as an active zone, a calming zone, and an interactive zone so different needs can be addressed. The Scouts with Disability space is an area for Scouts and Scouters who are in need of some down time and/or regrouping time when experiencing sensory overload and after deescalating you can resume and enjoy the rest of the NOAC program. There will be trained volunteers available with information for Scouters and Scouts to ask questions and get information on ways to meet the needs of all scouts so everyone can have a great experience.