Wildlife Tours for the disabled
Bo Boelens (the “Fat Birder”, UK) has been an advocate for many years for birding experiences for the less than fit. He sent us a podcast on the topic birding for the disabled, to be viewed by delegates at the Wildlife Tourism Australia workshop in Darwin, 2014. You can view the essentials here: http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au/wp-content/uploads/WS2013-BirdingForAll.pdf?x79844
You can also visit the blog entry Bo wrote for us: birding for the disabled
It’s not only birds, but wildlife in general that can be of interest to those who are simply not fit enough to get around as readily as the rest of us. I wouldn’t like to see a major road constructed to the top of every wild mountain so that no-one is denied the views (I have heard this suggestion) and I’m sure wheel-chair-bound nature-lovers wouldn’t want this kind of disruption to native habitats either, but there are many environmentally-friendly ways ways to make things easier for the less able wildlife enthusiasts
Enabling disabled or unfit enthusiasts includes physical structures scubas seats by walking tracks and ramps for wheelchairs, and appropriate guiding (e.g. finding out your tourists needs without embarrassing them about it, checking for signs of fatigue or giddiness).
“Disabled” does not just mean people in wheel-chairs. There are many conditions not quite so obvious, including recent hip displacements, lack of balance due to ear injuries, potentially dangerous asthma, pregnancy etc. may limit a person’s ability to travel as fast or as far as other visitors.The visually impaired may miss out on seeing all the birds others can readily enjoy, but can still enjoy listening to bird and frog calls and the whole sensation of being in the forest and learning about the creatures they are hearing or that others are seeing clearly. The hard of hearing may miss out on a lot of the interpretation unless a guide sensitive to their problem can give them the same information in print form, explain things by drawing quick sketches, etc. The intellectually handicapped may also be genuinely very enthusiastic about seeing our animals, and their interest should be taken seriously, by guides prepared to be patient with their attempts to understand.
We welcome comments from both guides and travelers on this topic (also tourism managers, researchers and others with an interest in the topic)