Volunteers seek to develop birding aides for blind kids | SkyHiNews.com

Volunteers seek to develop birding aides for blind kids

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For most of us who live and work in Grand County the mountains, and all they have to offer, are a fundamental part of our lives.

From hiking to hunting, skiing to mountain biking, the high country provides ample opportunities to experience the natural wonders of our region. But for those who suffer from physical disabilities, enjoying the recreational abundance of the area can be a serious challenge.

One local woman is working hard to make it easier for the visually impaired to enjoy the outdoors. Carol Hunter is developing the “Birding for All” program, creating birding lessons and materials for use by the visually impaired with a special emphasis on creating opportunities for children.

Birding, or bird watching, is the term used for the more serious, yet recreational study of birds in the wild. The program, once completed and ready for the public, would be available to people of all ages and abilities and would not require any visual impairments to participate.

“Birding is something that involves several different senses. Those of us that have our eyes think of birding as visual; but a really good birder birds by ear.”Carol HunterArapaho National Wildlife Refuge volunteer

“Birding for All” is still in the early development stages and Hunter is partnering with the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge on the project at this time. The program will focus on teaching birding through sound and tactile mediums. While she is developing many of the academic materials for the program, Hunter is seeking volunteers to make the cutout and three-dimensional models that will serve as the tactile teaching aides.

Birding is a natural outdoor activity for the visually impaired.

“Birding is something that involves several different senses,” said Hunter. “Those of us that have our eyes think of birding as visual; but a really good birder birds by ear.”

Skilled birders use their hearing to detect their avian subjects, distinguishing among various species by their distinct calls. Once a subject bird has been identified the tactile models come into play.

“It is a difficult thing for blind kids to understand size,” Hunter said.

The models will provide blind children with a better understanding of the shape and size of the birds they hear around them. Hunter hopes to have a wide variety of models for the program divided into at least five different size categories, ranging from very small (humming birds or chickadees) to medium (robins and pigeons) up to the largest size birds (pelicans and eagles).

Hunter is also seeking volunteers to develop models of bird beaks. She explained how beak shape and size are extremely important in birding, providing information about the types of food a bird consumers and its habitat.

Plans for the program have not been completed. Hunter hopes to finish gathering all the tactile materials and models for the project before finalizing the specifics of the program.

If you are interested in helping with the “Birding for All” program by making cutout or three-dimensional models you can reach Carol Hunter by email at birding4all@gmail.com. You can also leave a phone message for her at the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge by calling 970-723-8202 ext. 3.

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