As challenge course program providers, we have a responsibility to provide an accessible experience for our participants whenever possible. When designing a challenge course, consider universal access and provide as many elements as possible that allow for all to participate. On a course that does not have elements specifically designed for universal access, work with your vendor to design programming and adaptations that will allow you to best meet the abilities of all participants.  


The approach may vary depending on the ability level of each individual in the group.  

Therefore, it is important to plan ahead for how your organization will address meeting the needs of participants who have physical or sensory limitations.

Part of the needs assessment phase should include a question about whether there are any individuals in the group who have a sensory or physical disability. Should this be the case, ask for more specific information:

  • If it is a sensory limitation, what kind? If they are hearing impaired, will they have a sign language interpreter? If they are visually impaired, what tools do they use to maneuver (cane, service animal, etc.)?
  • If it is a physical limitation, do they use a wheelchair? Can they be independently mobile?
  • Is their disability also paired with a cognitive or emotional limitation?

As much as possible, everyone should have equal access to the challenge course program. Continually ask the participant what support they might need or want and what goals they have for the experience.

It is also critical that any activities contraindicated by an individual’s limitations be avoided.  This information can be ascertained by a one on one interview with the participant, reviewing the health history form, or speaking with the parent (in the case of a minor).


Sensory Differences



Individuals with a visual impairment may be fully able to participate in a challenge course program if they choose. Prior to the program beginning, do an extra careful sweep of the area to remove any ground hazards and avoid leaving equipment on the ground in random locations.

During programming provide as much clear verbal instruction as possible. Plan ground activities that are inclusive by nature and do not need to be adapted.

When climbing, provide the participant with an ongoing verbal description of what they are encountering.



Participants who are hearing impaired may use a variety of resources to help with understanding and processing information. If they read lips, the facilitator should stand where they can be seen and speak clearly. If they use an interpreter, give that person the time they need to pass along the information. It is also helpful to keep a whiteboard and markers on the course for writing out directions and information. (This can be a great tool to use for the many people in our groups who have a more visual learning style in general).


Physical differences:

This includes such a wide range of abilities that it is beyond addressing in this manual. People in your program may have something as simple as a temporary sprain, to using a wheelchair as their only form of mobility. To help provide appropriate programming, be informed about what their physician or physical therapist recommends. Talk to the participant about their goals and what they need to avoid.