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Inclusion Desk

Lessons in inclusive birding at Braddock Bay Park

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Jeremy Moule/CITY
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As far as recreational activities go, basic birding seems approachable enough. Looking beyond the stereotype of older couples staring at warblers through comically large binoculars, birding can be done on trails in public parks with unaided eyes and ears.

For some people with disabilities, however, that’s not the case. Wheelchair users may not be able to use trails or they may find that lookout points don’t have ramps. Veterans with PTSD and people on the autism spectrum may not be comfortable using binoculars, a fundamental tool of birding. Others may be deterred by the prospect of hanging heavy equipment around their necks for extended periods of time.

A workshop scheduled for Tuesday evening at Braddock Bay Park is intended to help aspiring birders with disabilities learn ways to take part in the pastime. The workshop is to be presented by Rochester Accessible Adventures and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, who have partnered to offer a series of inclusive outdoor recreation programs. Volunteers from Braddock Bay Raptor Research will also be on hand.

“We’re going to be looking at and introducing the public to adaptive and inclusive tools to help everybody be able to enjoy birding and getting outdoors,” said Betsy Ukeritis, interregional environmental educator for the DEC.

During a media event Monday at Braddock Bay, Ukeritis demonstrated a shoulder harness that better distributes the weight of a person’s optics of choice, binoculars mounted on a tripod that could be used in a sitting position, telescopes, and a window mount for binoculars and telescopes.

Anita O’Brien, executive director of Rochester Accessible Adventures, said the birding and fishing events have also spurred discussions about how to make sure people with disabilities have opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation.

“There’s also this social welcoming piece,” O’Brien said. “So, is the birding community expecting to see a person with disabilities out birding? Have they been invited to be a member of the birding groups? Has it been strategic and intentional to work through identifying what kind of social and physical barriers might be in place?”

Rochester Accessible Adventures worked with the town of Greece to address some problems for people with conditions affecting their mobility, Ukeritis said.

Participants will learn about wheelchair-accessible trails and birding at home, as well as bird songs, something organizers realized was important after talking to a blind participant during an accessible fishing event held previously.

The free Adaptive and Inclusive Birding Workshop runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, at Braddock Bay Park on East Manitou Road in Greece. Additional details are available at rochesteraccessibleadventures.org/event/adaptive-inclusive-birding.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

This story was produced by WXXI’s Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.