Spring has Sprung! Time to Consider What the Kids Will Do All Summer...

Jennifer Lin Perry April 26, 2020

Yes, it’s that time of year when parents and guardians are busy trying to finalize plans for summer activities for their children. For many families, that involves exploring summer camp options. If you are a parent or guardian of a child with a disability, remember that your child has rights under the ADA re: summer camp. If you operate a summer camp, remember that you have obligations under the ADA to accept and support campers with disabilities as well. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) along with U.S. Attorney’s offices nationwide, issued a notice (PDF) in May, 2015, to reinforce the importance of inclusion when it comes to summer camps.  This is a good time of year to consider your policies and procedures if you operate a summer camp, to ensure that you are meeting your federal obligations under the ADA. In part, the notice issued by DOJ in 2015 states the following:

“Children with learning, mental health, or physical disabilities have the same rights to attend summer camp as their non-disabled peers and cannot be denied admission due to their disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that summer camps (both private and those run by towns or municipalities) must 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.”

Here are a few things for summer camps to consider:

·        Does your camp have a Nondiscrimination Policy under The Americans with Disabilities Act? If so, is it made available to the public and understood by your staff? Among other things, this policy should include language that your camp will not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability, and that your camp will make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when such modifications are necessary to afford equal access to your services and facilities to individuals with disabilities, unless the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of your services.

·        Do your enrollment/registration materials include a nondiscrimination statement and encourage parents/guardians to reach out to camp staff to discuss appropriate reasonable accommodations or modifications in advance of the start of camp season?

·        Have you trained your camp staff on the requirements of the ADA? This training includes understanding how to administer daily medicines that may be required by campers with disabilities, such as insulin (via pump or shots) and emergency medications, such as glucagon and Diastat, just as camps do for the proper use of Epi-Pens.

·        Camps must evaluate each child and their accommodation needs on an individualbasis. It is critical to gather all relevant facts and consider alternatives before issuing a denial of admission to a camp program.

·        Most importantly, when determining if a child with a disability is able to participate in programs/activities, camps must not react to unfounded preconceptions or stereotypes about what children with disabilities can or cannot do, or how much assistance they may require. Instead, camps must make an individualized assessmentabout whether it can meet the particular needs of the child without fundamentally altering its program. Sometimes a simple discussion with parents can result in an effective reasonable accommodation that camps can implement.


If you have questions about the obligations of summer camps under the ADA, feel free to contact the Northeast ADA Center at 1.800.949.4232 or via email at Happy Summer!

Jennifer Perry has worked in the accessibility field for over fifteen years, with a focus primarily on design and construction issues. She provides accessibility training for architects, code officials and other stakeholders that are tailor made for jurisdictions and include state specific accessibility requirements. Jennifer also provides technical assistance to these individuals. Before joining the Northeast ADA Center in 2014, Jennifer worked for United Spinal Association as a Compliance Specialist, proving plan review, site assessments and training programs to assist design professionals and building owners with state and federal accessibility compliance concerns. Prior to her role as a Compliance Specialist, Jennifer worked in United Spinal's Government Relations Program, where she advocated for the rights of people with disabilities in both Advocacy and Legislative roles. Jennifer holds a B.A in Political Science and French from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA and is a registered International Code Council (ICC) Accessibility Specialist/Plans Examiner. She has served on several ICC Task Groups, including the Visitability and Government Relations Task Groups. She was a member of the Philadelphia Accessibility Advisory Board from 1998-2005, and currently serves as the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia. Jennifer and her family live in Sea Girt, New Jersey.