Old Gits & Spoilt Brats
This article first appeared in Birdwatching Magazine July 2017
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 plague’s 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, round in their Berber and Northern Exposure gear, 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 middleclass ramblers with brats are trying to get kids to appreciate nature before it disappears under concrete and tarmac. These urbanites (like most of us) may not know terns from tertials, but given time they just might. That’s if the kids are put off forever by some misery with a long lens and a bad attitude shushing them for getting enthusiastic. Chances are they will have trouble seeing anything out of the hide as viewing slots and elbow shelves are too high for them and the low-level ones in the ‘wheelchair’ space has no seating.
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 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!
I’m going to tell you, not set back the cause like one TV presenter by claiming that making concessions to disabled people is a threat to wildlife! We don’t need extra paths or closer viewing, but making what is there better for everyone!
I’m an example. My front is curved by over indulgence, but my back is curved by fate. I have to prop my elbows up higher than is comfortable so can’t raise my bins. If the fixed bench is too far away I have to balance on my coccyx or not lean on my elbows. If the benches were moveable 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 six feet, 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!
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