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San Fernando Valley Audubon Society

Wildlife for Everyone: Accessibility at Sepulveda Basin


The Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve is a heavily used haven in the San Fernando Valley for all manner of wildlife, and humans seeking the nature experience. But this is not the case for those with disabilities. This proposal will provide a means to access for blind, deaf, seniors, wheelchair users and developmentally disabled individuals who desire to experience the healing properties of this natural reserve.

Describe the mission of your organization.

San Fernando Valley Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, using science, advocacy, education and conservation. Our vision is that we live in a world in which people and wildlife should both be able to thrive.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • San Fernando Valley

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

The Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve (SBWR) offers trails and a lake teeming with wildlife in a riparian setting, adjacent to a public park, all managed by LA City Parks and Recreation. The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society (SFVAS) offers regular birding outings, and works with Resource Conservation District of Santa Monica Mountains to offer LAUSD Title 1 students a day of outdoor curriculum. But for anyone with a disability or even limited stamina, the site is a problem. There is nowhere for anyone to rest along the trail, no accommodations for the deaf or blind, and no accommodations for wheelchairs. Disabled Veterans, North Los Angeles Regional Center(NLACRC) consumers (28,0000) who are blind, in a wheelchair or have physical limits do not use the SBWR. Massive numbers of studies (bibliography available on request) show that being outdoors and bird watching helps reduce stress, depression, improves mental focus and immune function. We aim to fix the access deficits at SBWR.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

This proposal seeks to address inequalities at SBWR by making it accessible for everyone, despite physical or cognitive disabilities. The first basic need is for visitors to be seated briefly as they proceed around the lake. At present there are only two seats, while there is a need for eight more. The benches proposed are ADA and LA City Parks & Rec approved. This proposal also includes a new cell phone audiotour package, that allows visitors to learn about ecology by listening to pre-recorded segments, using signposts at each bench that have the dial-in information, and in Braille (the system also provides captions for the deaf, and has a GPS interactive map). Anyone can access the system and the system provides usage data reports. This software is used by NPS and many museums and community entities. For wheelchair users, equipment is requested that would allow scopes and binoculars to be attached to the wheelchair and adapted to individual needs. Beach wheelchairs are also requested for those whose chairs cannot deal with the gravel trail. Teaching modules will also be developed so that faculty can teach LAUSD special needs kids, and equipment to allow tactile teaching is requested (taxidermy birds and teaching skins that can be touched, necessary for the blind and for cognitive issues). These tools would allow a child or client to actually touch the feathers, wingspan, the head and feet of a bird (e.g., hawk, duck, pelican) and fully understand the subject.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

All of these efforts seek to make SPWR an experience for all citizens in our area, not just those who are able. Birding and ecology will be available to Special Needs as well as regular LAUSD Title 1 students; blind, deaf, and senior visitors will be served by the additional seating and improved curriculum. The ecology and conservation information will be available to all using the principles of Universal Design on the audiotour system. SFVAS will share our knowledge with all Chapters of Audubon all around Los Angeles, and will serve as a model for LA City Parks and Rec to roll out across the City. We will engage with the local VA to bring disabled Veterans to the SBWR and enable them to access the outdoors and birding. We are already reaching to Lion’s Club, Braille Institute, Paralyzed Veteans Association, and AARP, to increase use. We will work long-term with these organizations to measure client satisfaction, attitude to the outdoors, and general mental health impacts.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

This proposal will eliminate barriers for the disabled in the existing SBWR setting and teaching curriculum. Teacher satisfaction is already measured during the school year program, and will now include special needs classes. The audiotour software allows for year-round usage data, and satisfaction data can be collected. For the classes and birding outings, SFVAS checks out equipment and tracks it, so that data can be reported out. The VA clinics are anxious to resume outings, and number about 600 individuals per year (with satisfaction), so that data will be collected. NLACRC also has significant numbers of clients who wish to use SBWR. SFVAS, which already offers birding trips, will add a data column to track disabled users. No data is collected about these agencies use of SBWR at present, but they are all expressing a keen interest in our activities, and therefore the data collected will be significant.

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

SFVAS: birding trips faculty; LAUSD school/homeschool instruction; inventory control of equipment; creating narrative, loading/reporting out data of audio tour system, tour subscription (beginning 2022), outreach to other Chapters. RCDSMM: Providing faculty for schools, including new teaching modules, and techniques for tactile education for low vision or low cognition students. LA City Parks & Rec: Receiving 8 benches, coordinating with SFVAS on concrete pours, installing benches and signage (developed by SFVAS), rolling out SBWR as model. NLACRC: publicizing birding opportunities for their 28,000 clients, assisting with outreach. VA Greater LA Healthcare System: Outreach to Veterans for individual birding outings, assisting with group outings to SBWR once COVID restrictions are lifted.

Which of the connect metrics will you impact?​

  • Volunteerism
  • Disability access and inclusion

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the best place to LEARN
  • LA is the best place to PLAY