Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has had fully participating members with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. James E. West, the first Chief Scout Executive, was a person with a disability. Although most of the BSA’s efforts have been directed at keeping such boys in the mainstream of Scouting, it has also recognized the special needs of those with severe disabilities.
The Boy Scout Handbook has had braille editions for many years; merit badge pamphlets have been recorded on cassette tapes for the visually impared; and closed-caption training videos have been produced for those who are hearing impared. In 1965, registration of over-age Scouts with mental disabilities became possible — a privilege now extended to many people with disabilities.
The basic premise of Scouting for youth with disabilities and special needs is that they want most to participate like other youth — and Scouting gives them that opportunity. Thus, much of the program for Scouts with disabilities and special needs is directed at (1) helping unit leaders develop an awareness of disabled people among youth without disabilities and (2) encouraging the inclusion of Scouts with disabilities and special needs.