Grumpy Old Birder

Do our re­serves do enough for the dis­abled visi­tor? Here’s Bo Be­olens’ view...

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - Bo Be­olens runs fat­ and other web­sites. He has writ­ten a num­ber of books.

Bo Be­olens wants more done to make hides more ac­ces­si­ble for the dis­abled

RANT WARN­ING! WHY on earth would you be both­ered about dis­abil­ity ac­cess to na­ture re­serves? It’s ob­vi­ously not much of a prob­lem as just about ev­ery hide you’ve been in has a wheel­chair slot and you hardly ever see any bird­ers in wheel­chairs; if they can’t make the ef­fort, why should you? I mean, the only bloke you ever see in the wheel­chair slot is some rude old git who doesn’t even an­swer when you speak to him. All this ac­cess rub­bish is just part of the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect non­sense that plagues our so­ci­ety. The dis­abled should stick to block­ing Post Of­fice queues and whin­ing about ev­ery­thing. They are al­most as bad as the muesli brigade driv­ing round in Chelsea trac­tors, drag­ging noisy brats into the hides, scar­ing off any­thing worth look­ing at and groan­ing on about “how lovely larks are” and “isn’t that swan pretty”. I mean what’s that all about? Well my friend, let me en­lighten you. Those mid­dle class ram­blers with brats are try­ing to get kids to ap­pre­ci­ate na­ture be­fore it dis­ap­pears un­der con­crete. These ur­ban­ites (like most of us) may not know terns from ter­tials, but, given time, they just might. That’s if the kids are not put off for­ever by some mis­ery with a long lens and a bad at­ti­tude shush­ing them for get­ting too en­thu­si­as­tic. By the way, that rude old git is me. I am by na­ture cur­mud­geonly, but the ‘rude­ness’ is be­cause I haven’t put my hear­ing aid in, so never heard you speak. I prob­a­bly have my hear­ing aids on a set­ting that lets me hear bird song for the first time in years! The wheel­chair slot is an in­creas­ingly com­mon ‘con­ces­sion’, and only some­times is even fit for pur­pose with ex­tra knee room, how­ever; mostly it’s just a gap be­tween fixed benches with a lower win­dow. Not so much a con­ces­sion as a bone thrown to starv­ing dogs. Seem­ingly an act of kind­ness, but bring­ing a sense of benev­o­lence to the bone thrower. The hide has a wheel­chair slot and a ramp – what more do you want! We don’t need ex­tra paths or closer view­ing, but mak­ing what is there, bet­ter for ev­ery­one! If the benches were mov­able and the slot heights vari­able I, kids, el­derly folk and a whole range of non-stan­dard bird­ers would be bet­ter served. If paths had pe­ri­odic benches or sim­ple perches I might be able to make it fur­ther than the first hide on a good day with the wind be­hind me. Some dis­abled peo­ple must use wheel­chairs, and they need con­ces­sions… the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple with mo­bil­ity is­sues need a lot more thought! Hide fa­cil­i­ties are not ‘one-size-fits-all’ un­less you are 6ft tall, fully fit and very flex­i­ble. The vast ma­jor­ity would ben­e­fit from va­ri­ety. Good de­sign costs no more in cash, just a lot more in em­pa­thy and brain use! Why should you care? Be­cause you were young once, will (if you are lucky) get old, are likely to suf­fer some mo­bil­ity re­stric­tion even if tem­po­rary and may, if you have a bet­ter at­ti­tude, get to breed small peo­ple of your own!

Hide fa­cil­i­ties are not ‘one-siz­e­fits-all’ un­less you are 6ft tall, fully fit and very flex­i­ble

AC­CESS Some hides could do more for dis­abled bird­watch­ers, says Bo

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