Accessible bird events increase inclusion in the outdoors

Accessible bird events increase inclusion in the outdoors 

Outdoor spaces have many benefits including increased life satisfaction, improved physical health and improved mental health. However, many individuals with disabilities or other health concerns experience barriers to accessing outdoor spaces and programming. These barriers take multiple forms, including the physical inaccessibility of many outdoor spaces and the lack of inclusive programming practices.

In response, staff at the University of Wisconsin’s Division of Extension Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center worked with partner organizations to develop and deliver three workshops to prepare practitioners to deliver accessible outdoor experiences for their communities. These workshops included a panel of disabled outdoor enthusiasts sharing their stories, a presentation on universal design developed with the McBurney Disability Center and a discussion using inclusion planning prompts. Sixty-one practitioners attended these workshops.

To ensure these efforts reached community members with disabilities and other health concerns, Extension delivered three accessible bird observing events in three different communities across the state. Forty-two community members attended these events, which consisted of looking for birds through scopes and binoculars, listening for birds and an educational presentation that included a live turkey vulture.

As a result, 94% of workshop participants reported having either somewhat or great confidence in their ability to facilitate accessible programming, with 68% reporting to have greatly increased their knowledge of accessible programming and 57% greatly increasing their skills. Over 80% of participants at the accessible events shared that these events greatly increased their confidence and ability to explore the outdoors.

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