Disabled Birders

To: "Terry Pacey" <>, "Birding-Aus" <>
Subject: Disabled Birders
From: "Peter Horler" <>
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2002 10:26:33 +1000
Thank you Terry for this contribution.

I have only been incapacitated once (for a number of weeks) and can only say
that my perspective changed completely through that experience.

-----Original Message-----
From: Terry Pacey <>
To: Birding-Aus <>
Cc: Disabled Birders Association <>
Date: Wednesday, 31 July 2002 09:26
Subject: Disabled Birders

>I have thought long and hard as to whether or not to send this message.
>comments made during the debate on birding from chairs has shown that there
>is a great deal of education needed so that able-bodied birders understand
>just what having a disability means.
>Before I start, I must point out that I have a very minor disability (if
>exclude stupidity) only.  This disability means that I am often prevented
>from birding by serious pain (the type that makes you physically ill) and
>inability to stand for any period and/or walk any distance.  Please note
>that this is not a constant problem but flares at times. I do not use, or
>need a wheelchair, but have had the experience of having a "turn" while
>birding by myself at a considerable distance from the car.  Not a pleasant
>A disability can very from mild to severe.  It can be full time or part
>time.  It may not be obvious.  A wheelchair or a white cane or guide dog
>stand out.  Any of you who have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome know how
>annoying it is to have people say how well you look and not be able to
>understand why you can't keep up as they stride through the bush.  You know
>you feel like s**t and can hardly move but still look well.  This is a
>disability too and shows how difficult it can be making judgements.
>Some of the people I bird with are hearing impaired.  They can't hear the
>bird calls but compensate with remarkably acute sight.  These people need
>help by being shown the direction the calls come from.  I have often found
>that these birders are the ones who first see the birds.  The opposite also
>occurs with the sight impaired often hearing (and identifying) species and
>showing exactly where they are which enables the able bodied to see the
>species much more easily.
>Then there are those who use walking aids.  These vary in size and type.
>Many of these birders are unable to use the so called wheelchair access
>tracks as the surface is covered in gravel, etc that does not affect
>vehicles but is dangerous with a walking aid which can easily slip on such
>surfaces.  The question was asked as to whether these people would be
>off in a wheelchair.  I felt like treating that question with contempt but
>realize it was asked by someone who has no experience in these matters.
>reasons are quite obvious when you think about it.  Wheelchairs are not
>exactly inexpensive.  No one I know would carry one "just in case there was
>a track that was suitable".  The other reason is that anything which
>your independence is something to be avoided.  The worst thing about most
>disabilities is this reduction of independence.
>I have also found that many birding spots (even those that are "wheelchair
>friendly") have no suitable parking.  How many times have you parked beside
>the road and then walked along the side of the road?  What about when a
>group of birders all converge on a "hot spot"?  To unload a wheelchair and
>then be able to move from the car to the chair requires a great deal of
>extra space.  Even those with mobility problems that do not require a
>wheelchair need plenty of space to get in and out of a vehicle.  Then there
>are those spots where the nearest parking spot requires you to negotiate
>roadway, up a hill, to reach the track.  Try moving out of the road of
>vehicles while negotiating  a steep hill in a wheelchair or while using a
>walking aid.
>There are many things that can be done to help disabled birders especially
>those with diminished mobility.  This includes those who are wheelchair
>bound.  The first, and most important, is to show a little understanding
>patience.  Those organising group outings should consider all of the
>problems I have mentioned.  Even if someone does not announce they have a
>difficulty, that does not mean they are able bodied.  Birders are supposed
>to be observant.  That is the very core of birding, but I have seen many
>group outings where almost no one noticed that one member took a long time
>to climb in or out of the car and had difficulty keeping up.  Of course,
>they were just "lazy" weren't they?
>I have had many pleasant outings where those with me accepted that I had
>difficulties keeping up and showed consideration and assistance when
>Then there are those "horror" outings where the opposite happened.  If this
>happens to me, how much worse is it for those with greater problems?
>There a number of other ideas which are already being practised in some
>overseas countries and I will put those forward as suggestions for
>in a later posting.
>Good birding
>Terry Pacey
>(Check out the Disabled Birders Association site at
>Birding-Aus is on the Web at
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