Pilot announced to help make The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award more accessible to young people with disabilities

October 13, 2021

Duke of Edinburgh's Award Press Release

We want to make The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE) more inclusive and accessible to people who might not be able to initiate or complete the more ‘traditional’ physical and mental challenges that it involves.  Initially, we’re going to pilot a DofE virtual expedition at Gold level. It will have the same sectional outcomes, but we’re looking to reimagine the way that they’re achieved.  

We’re hoping to create one or more expedition groups to help design and then complete a practice and qualifying expedition. The expeditions will likely contain some of the standard elements – we’re keen that the activities and requirements are suitably challenging for Gold level – but we also want them to be appropriate for young people who are disabled or who live with chronic medical conditions.  

We’re starting with a pilot at Gold level because we were particularly inspired by two young women who completed their Bronze and Silver Awards before being diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), and who now want to complete the scheme. If the pilot is successful, then we hope to similarly implement it across the whole programme (Silver, Bronze, and Gold). 

The ME Association commented: 

“We are very pleased to support this initiative and would like to thank the DofE and the two young women with M.E. for making the initial recommendations. We are delighted that the Award will be more inclusive and tailored to those who want to take part. The additional flexibility will make it more accessible to young people with chronic illnesses – once their symptoms have stabilised and it is safe for them to do so. We hope the pilot is a success and that more young people will feel inspired to achieve a DofE programme in the future.”  

We’d love to hear from you if: 

  • You’re between the ages of 16 and 23. 
  • You’re a young person with a disability or medical condition that limits cognition and/or mobility, or you feel that 8+ hours of physical activity a day (a requirement on a ‘traditional’ expedition) is not for you. 
  • You want to do your Gold DofE (you don’t have to have done Bronze or Silver). 
  • You’re keen to shape the future of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award! 

If you take part in the virtual expedition pilot, we’ll ask that: 

  • You’re happy to share your contact details with other like-minded people in the virtual expedition group. 
  • You can attend regular planning sessions online over the next few months (frequency to be decided) to help design the virtual expedition. 
  • You sign up to do your DofE – we'll aim to help with any associated costs, such as the £30 enrolment fee, if you’d like to do your whole programme, but there is no obligation to do so. 
  • You take part in a practice and a qualifying expedition next year. 
  • And, if you want to, that you complete the other DofE sections in your own time. 

If you’d like to have an informal chat to find out more before joining the pilot, please get in touch with Vicky Ellaway-Barnard, Programme Innovation Manager, at the DofE: vicky.ellaway-barnard@dofe.org.  

This is what Charlotte, who will be taking part in the pilot, told us: 

“I was diagnosed with M.E. and joint hypermobility over six years ago. I struggle to stand up for more than 10 minutes and I become fatigued with lots of activity.  

“Sometimes I use a walking stick, sometimes I use a wheelchair, and although I try to manage my energy, there are still many days where I struggle to get out of bed.  

“I wanted to join the pilot because I can't complete the DofE expedition section with the current expedition requirements in place. I want to do my DofE to also achieve the Queen’s Scout Award.  

“I hope that this pilot will reshape the requirement to make the programme more accessible and show that no matter your capabilities, you can do anything if you put your mind to it. I'm really excited for this opportunity and happy that DofE will be more accessible for people with M.E.” 

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