Accessibility involves: Teamwork, ingenuity, and illegal parking.

Geology, and science in general, is for everyone. Everyone should be allowed to have opportunities to explore the world. Just because someone is disabled, it doesn’t mean they should be banished to the dark, dank, suspiciously cold basement labs. Everyone should have the experience of learning in the field.

During the IOPD 2019 School of Rock, we wanted to spend a few hours exploring the Geology of Torrey Pines State Beach. Due to a physical disability, I wasn’t sure I was going to make the entire walk along the beach and came to terms with the group having to leave me behind on the beach to continue my life with the seagulls eventually becoming their queen. In the name of inclusion and seagull democracy, Scripps professor Dick Norris did some research and learned that Torrey Pines State Beach has offers beach wheelchairs.

After a couple of phone calls and getting passed back and forth between the receptionist and some park rangers, we confirmed that they did in fact, have a single beach wheelchair to be used on a first come first served basis.

It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t comfortable, it had a strong desire to drift right towards the ocean, and was overly difficult to turn but it made the day one of the most fun experiences in the field that I have ever participated in.

Once we had the wheelchair, the first stop at Torrey Pines State Beach, was at the very top of a steep hill to overlook a marsh. The obstacle to overcome was how to get me to the top of hill because, wouldn’t you know, beach wheelchairs are made to be used on the beach. Dick pushed the chair up the hill, while I was driven up in the smallest vehicle that the group had rented so we could fit on the side of the road and we just parked in an outcrop that had a big sign that said no parking. Sometimes accessibility and inclusion involves having to do a little illegal parking from time to time in the name of science and education.

Eventually we made our way to the beach and the wild ride began. Using the beach wheelchair was a new learning experience for everyone involved. This chair in particular, had a strong desire to drift towards the ocean while also having the turning radius of a drunken elephant. It took some time but eventually we learned that the chair works best when having someone pull from the front and push from the back.

If fact, when using the two person method, you could fly down the beach at great speed and enjoy the wind blowing in your hair. The members of School of Rock rotated jobs, took turns pushing, and pulling me down the beach. This allowed me to fully participate and get every bit of a hands-on experience as any abled bodied person.

I want to give a thank you to the 2019 IODP School of Rock for being open to accessibility and inclusion. I also want to give a very special thank you to Torrey Pines State Beach for providing the wheelchair. Without their help, I would not have been able to fully participate and have more fun than I could imagine.

Thank you everyone for reading my journey,

Leah Miller

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