Recently I discovered a new organization; a new website—Birdability. The organization is focused on disability inclusion in birding. It may seem like a quirky corner of concern, but it was a reminder of our inability to segregate the impact of disability, or any characteristic of diversity, to only one or two specific areas of life. Most of my characteristics are visible: I’m white, female and dwarf. I’m a birder. You can’t always tell that by looking. I learned the voices of birds as a child. My Pa Tom pointed out the distinct calls of our birds and I studied the variety available in the dusty fields around our little farm. Accessibility wasn’t a problem because I just walked around and listened.
I don’t suppose I thought of myself as a birder until I was forty-ish. I have noticed birds all my life. Hawks sat on the overhead lines along my routes to and from Joplin beginning in college. Driving cross-country in the summer, the red-winged black birds perched on fences just beyond the reach of the highway. Touring a civil war battlefield, I found blue birds. I was struck by the curious cheerfulness pausing on a branch, more than a century after bloodshed continued to shape our national landscape. Being a homeowner, however, brought bird feeders into my life. I lured a variety of nuthatches, chickadees and juncos into community with the sparrows and blue jays and cardinals. I bought finch seed and found gold finches in my yard. By May, the humming bird feeders were up. I found the Cornell bird site with audio and struck up a conversation with cat birds hidden in the twilight shadows along the back fence. Birding is a simple enough way to connect with nature, and it expands my awareness of the beauty lurking in bushes and branches all around us. I’ve found birding spots in parks, shoreline marshland and wherever I go, outside my door.
I don’t need to focus much on my disability when birding is a solitary activity of my own design. But if I venture out, I have to plan. Is the trail area accessible? Is there a driving route that could make exploring more manageable? Is there parking or are there places to rest along the trail. I am reminded of the ugly racial encounter in New York City’s Central Park when a white woman called the police on a Black man birding. Race and ethnicity don’t matter to the birds. I used to think there was a bias against younger women birding but it appears I’ve outgrown the “younger” tag.
Radical Wholeness stands for our wholeness wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Whenever we find activities people are excluded from, we must become aware of the barriers we create or allow to remain which distance segments of the community from participating. We are called to be inclusive in even the most quirky or mundane of the activities of life. Kudos to Birdability for filling a need and making one more corner of life more accessible.