Wildlife Tours for the disabled

Bo BeolensBo 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)

4 Comments

  1. What a great topic – have just discovered it a year after it started. Later is still good…have just resumed camping after 20 years. Reliance on CPAP machines to keep breathing at night was the barrier. Retirement funds bought the camper trailer, deep cycle batteries installed in trailer now let my partner and I (both late 60s women) use our CPAPS for several nights without needing to re-charge. Gluepot Reserve was a fantastic re-introduction to bush camping and gorgeous birds.
    Difficulties for CPAP users are access to powered sites (rarer than night parrots at wild camps) and permission to recharge with a generator (denied at most wild camps). We are OK for now but keep looking for ways to stretch our trips….the super-quiet generator we bought was still not negotiable at Gluepot, and taking down our whole camp in order to drive outside park boundaries for a re-charging session was not appealing. Planning Sydney to Lakefield National Park via inland one way, coast the other, for July! Thanks, Ruth

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  2. No, I definitely would *not* want to see big ugly roads crisscrossing beautiful wild lands. I don’t think that’s the right solution to create more universally accessible wildlife tour options throughout the world.

    In California (my home), many beach state parks offer “sand chairs” on loan for visitors who would like to traverse the beaches but need to use a wheelchair. These chairs have big, burly all-terrain wheels and a different balance-point than a “standard” wheelchair. These chairs do well on sand and even on some rocky trails.

    For me, because I don’t use a wheelchair but I need to sit and rest often, I don’t necessarily want benches built everywhere for me. I’d rather figure out how to carry a lightweight seat that meets my specific physical needs with me when I’m traveling.

    I think that this type of technology is a better direction for universal usability. Rather than concentrating on changing the surrounding environment, I’d love to see focus on changing modes of travel to better suit the people. Does that make any sense?

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  3. Heather from Adelaide has asked me to put this in on her behalf:

    “This year I was injured while on holidays. I had two days of birding tours booked with Araucaria Wildlife Tours before my flight home. I asked Ronda if she could cater for me – yes. Ronda opened and closed the vehicle door, did up my seat belt, tied my shoe laces in preparation for walking, took photographs and ticked off the birds we saw. Thank you for ending my holiday on a pleasant note. Heather”

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