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Disability Action Center NW

Summer Camp Program – A Mother’s Story

Burke examining marine life with his friends at summer camp
Burke examining marine life with his friends at summer camp

This summer my son, Burke Nelson is participating in a camp with hearing peers who are learning science, art and music. He is also participating in a camp that lets him experience all things “outdoors”; kayaking, biking, rock climbing, fishing, hiking and swimming!

When I dreamt of parenthood, I expected to raise children who could hear and respond to my spoken words. When I found out my son
was deaf, I felt my dreams for his life slip away into a quite, isolated world. I worried that he would not be able to experience the fullness and joy of the life I wanted to provide for him. That was 8 years ago. Now my son communicates fully using signed and spoken English.

He is a lively and happy little boy who is a force to be reckoned with and will stop at nothing until he understands and is understood. He has the capacity and tenacious spirit to do just about anything. And, it is with that spirit that I reached out to Northwest ADA Center-Idaho to help me understand my son’s rights for a sign language interpreter so that he can participate in summer camp programs.

You see, when a deaf child wants to participate in camp, traditionally the financial burden for the camp tuition and the interpreter was placed on the family. For us, this cost would be too large of an expense and would ultimately inhibit our son from having a summer camp experience. I was not about to have summer camp taken off the list for my boy!

I scoured the internet for resources and laws. I was determined to “make a case” for these camp programs to provide funding for my son’s interpreter. Thankfully, I was referred to the Northwest ADA Center.

Burke at the Rabbit Barn, signing with interpreter
Burke at the Rabbit Barn, signing with interpreter

Before contacting the Northwest ADA Center- Idaho, I previously requested an interpreter for my son to participate in two summer camps and was told by the camp staff they could not provide interpreters due to the cost.

When I called the Northwest ADA Center number (800-949-4232) and left a message, Dana from the Northwest ADA Center-Idaho was answering the 800 number and called me right back.

We discussed the camps that I wanted my son to attend. Through a number of emails and phone calls Dana walked me through the process of understanding the laws impacting my son’s rights to obtain a qualified sign language interpreter at summer camps. Dana provided examples of how I could state my request for effective communication based on the ADA regulations and ideas to self-advocate for my son to have an interpreter at camp.

After working with Dana and weeks of emailing the Directors of both summer camp programs, they agreed to provide sign language interpreters for my son at no cost.

By making a formal request based on the ADA regulations, the camp directors reviewed their staff’s original refusal and it was determined that the cost was not a financial burden to provide the sign language interpreters.

I can honestly say that without Dana’s help in understanding how to explain my son’s rights, I would have hit too many brick walls and probably given up the fight.

Thanks for empowering me with the ADA regulations and technical assistance information I needed to advocate for my son’s right to communicate and experience the fullness and joy of summer camp! Chris. ”

Story by Christina (Chris) Nelson