story 1 June 2019

An equal challenge

Boy inside orange tent laying out a sleeping bag

For a DofE group in Cambridge, their route planning and their mode of transport were key to ensure that every participant felt challenged but not overwhelmed on their Gold expedition.

The five participants, including two who have physical disabilities, chose cycling as their method of travel to ensure they could complete their DofE expedition as a team.

One young person in the group did not have use of her legs but was able to hand cycle, and another was a leg amputee. This meant that route planning was crucial as hills and certain obstacles on the route would have caused substantial difficulties for the group. However, through training and practise the hand cyclist gained sufficient leg strength that she was able to use a conventional bicycle for the expedition.

DofE Leaders Duncan and Sue assisted the group in finding an accessible route centred on the Liverpool to Leeds canal from Gargrave to York via Skipton and Selby.

A crucial aspect of the expedition was to create an equal setting for all five participants. Choosing cycling helped this as all five participants had similar levels of biking experience and levels of fitness. This would not have been possible should the group have chosen to walk.

It was also crucial for DofE Leaders Duncan and Sue to understand the capabilities of the participants. This would mean that the participants would feel challenged beyond their personal boundaries, inevitably increasing their confidence in the long run. But at the same time, to not overwhelm the young people with an impossible expedition which would have achieved the opposite.

Choosing cycling also meant that the group needed to learn specific mechanical skills in order to remain self sufficient on their expedition. Whilst this presented an initial challenge, the group have now gained the invaluable practical skill of bicycle maintenance, and also cycle more now than they did before.

By taking part in an integrated expedition with young people who have a mix of abilities and needs, the group developed core teamwork skills. The participants needed to understand and adapt to the differing needs of the group in order to successfully overcome challenges and to achieve their Gold Awards. DofE Leader, Duncan says:

“It was a great success! The group worked fantastically well together and were well matched!”

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