Empowering Exploration: Birding With an Access Challenge
Curious? We hope so! Join a panelist of birders—and potential future birders—with disabilities and other health concerns as we discuss their approach to adventure and exploration. What do you think about when planning a birding trip? How do you tackle obstacles, and what happens when something goes wrong? How can you frame your birding exploits to be a tool of empowerment, rather than seeing barriers at every turn? We hope you'll come away with a new approach to birding!
Closed captions and an American Sign Language interpreter will be provided.
Virginia Rose (she/her) is the founder of Birdability and a Board member of Travis Audubon in Austin, Texas. She has been a paraplegic for 48 years and uses a manual wheelchair to get around. She began birding 18 years ago and discovered her best self in nature, and founded Birdability to help others with access challenges discover the joys of birding.
Topher Downham (he/him) An avid outdoorsman before his accident, Topher Downham found solace and healing on City of Boulder hiking trails after becoming a quadriplegic. For the past 25 years as an Outreach Coordinator for the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, he has been helping other people with disabilities reconnect with nature and the outdoors through wheelchair hiking, birdwatching, and all-terrain handcycling. A firm believer that nature is needed by everyone, Topher has continuously advocated for opportunities for all.
Michael Hurben (he/him) is an avid global birder who has been legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa since his mid-twenties. He has made it a life goal to identify at least half of the world's bird species despite his disability. He is a retired physicist and lives with his birding wife, Claire, in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Marjorie Turner Hollman (she/her) is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed four self-published Easy Walks guide books, including her newest book Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She regained some mobility after being totally paralyzed on her right side by brain surgery to save her life. She volunteers with the National Park Service in the Blackstone Valley Heritage Corridor, where numerous adaptive outdoor programs are held, and is the moderator of a Facebook group with over 7000 members where participants share not only photos, but travail conditions, accessibility info, and specific info to help others be more active, regardless of challenges.
Bonnie Lewkowicz (she/her) is the Program Manager of Access Northern California at Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program in Berkeley, CA. In this capacity she educates about and advocates for greater access to the outdoors for people with disabilities and maintains a website of accessible trails in Northern CA. As a nature lover and wheelchair rider she is passionate about expanding people's perceptions about equity in the outdoors to include people with disabilities.
Emerson Milam (she/her) is an LGBTQIA+ birder and explorer. She has ADHA, a birding superpower, and chronic Lyme disease that creates a variety of challenges for her, especially while adventuring. Emerson knows first-hand how exploration can empower self-discovery, self-acceptance and joy.
Nicole Neigel (she/her) is autistic and struggles with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and an undiagnosed illness. She works as an educator and bird rehabber at a nature center, where she advocates to make her workplace and their programs more accessible for everybody. She is a Birdability Captain, and is passionate about helping others enjoy nature and birds regardless of any
This event is free and will be recorded and available on the Birdability website and YouTube channel. Donations to support Birdability's work are appreciated.