November 29, 2019—“This was awesome and I hope we can come back again soon!” remarked a visitor from Abilis after participating in a recent Audubon For All program. In 2019, Greenwich Audubon Center launched an exciting initiative focused on accessibility and inclusion called Audubon for All. Through this initiative, the center develops programs and experiences that address the needs of under-represented communities including people with disabilities, senior citizens, and children from under-resourced communities.
Center Director Eli Schaffer has made accessibility a primary focus: “A coalition fighting to protect birds, other wildlife, and the habitat they depend on is a coalition uniting all people. As National Audubon Society has prioritized increasing equity, diversity, and inclusion, Greenwich Audubon Center has taken action to set an example for Audubon centers and local nature centers alike.”
This past year, Greenwich Audubon Center added new accessible trails around one of the most beautiful and biodiverse areas of the center, Georgie’s Pond. The center's accessible Hawk Watch also allows people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to experience the wonder of bird migrations with guidance from Audubon staff. The Hilfiger Children's Learning Center, located within the center's main building, features accessible exhibits such as live animal displays, a functioning beehive, and a powerful microscope. There are plans underway for the creation of more accessible trails, sensory gardens, bilingual signage with braille, and a designated sensory-sensitive room.
Audubon staff member Caroline Bailey coordinates and plans personalized visits for people with special needs, whether it be physical or intellectual. Caroline’s brother lives with autism, and she recognizes the importance of including those that typically might not have access to exploring nature. Caroline expressed “I love tying together these two invaluable causes: connecting people with nature and supporting underrepresented communities. Nature provides soothing and enriching experiences, and we’d like to do everything we can to provide more of these positive experiences for our local community, especially those with a historical lack of access.”
Greenwich Audubon Center has organized a series of personalized programs for local organizations such as Abilis, STEPS Home Care, LGBTQ groups, and Don Bosco Community Center. Martha Sud, founder and director of the Don Bosco Early Childhood Bilingual Program, stated that the Audubon programs were very rewarding, “especially for those students with communication disorders and sensory impairments. The Audubon For All initiative is a gift of nature for all communities to embrace!” STEPS Home Care representative Betsy Keller reflected upon a recent visit, “Our clients loved the outing and can’t wait to come back this winter for another education program!” After observing a series of Audubon land stewardship programs, Abilis staff member Nick Stewart said, “The staff did so much to ensure that everyone was as involved as possible and were having a great experience. Everyone was well prepared to accommodate participants in any way possible.”
Greenwich Audubon Center hopes to support more children with challenges, seniors, veterans, and other local organizations that focus on under-served groups. The center is also exploring new avenues of partnership and collaboration for this cause, and would like to increase their level of positive impact serving the local community. According to Center Director Eli Schaffer, “Audubon for All unites our efforts to reach communities that have been underrepresented and those facing barriers in accessing nature. To reach new audiences and overcome challenges together, the Greenwich Audubon Center relies on strategic partnerships with existing organizations.”
In addition to personalized programs, the center offers regular Sensory-Sensitive Saturdays. Every second Saturday of the month, people of all ages with challenges, their families, and guardians can visit to experience soothing nature films, natural artifacts, and other resources in a relaxing space with Audubon staff. The Greenwich Audubon Center team is dedicated to this cause and is excited for the future of Audubon For All.
To learn more about Audubon for All and for questions, please contact Caroline Bailey at 203-930-1351 or Caroline.Bailey@audubon.org.