Chattanooga intern describes her experience promoting outdoor inclusivity for youth with disabilities


Growing up as a teenager identified as hard of hearing, Eleanor Lane didn’t have the opportunity to fully explore the outdoors.

“My mother was very reluctant to leave her hearing-impaired daughter walking in the woods unsupervised,” Lane says.

Beyond her family’s reluctance, there was no organization encouraging Lane or individuals like her to be active in nature or educating them about outdoor inclusivity.

Now, at 22, Lane has the chance to increase outdoor accessibility for people who are deaf and hard of hearing through her work as a youth empowerment delegate for Conservation Legacy.

“Crews like this didn’t exist when I was growing up,” says Lane.

Conservation Legacy is a national organization dedicated to environmental conservation and supporting community service projects. He works with eight program partners across the country, including the Chattanooga-based Southeast Conservation Corps, where Lane currently works as a YES intern.

The YES program is a new addition to Conservation Legacy’s mission. Funded by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation grant program, it seeks to employ people with disabilities, with a focus on improving accessibility and inclusivity on public lands.

Lane’s job responsibilities include general trail cleaning and maintenance as well as planning and organizing programs for the deaf and hard of hearing. For example, in September, to celebrate International Week of the Deaf, she and Youth Field Supervisor Taran Branscum organized a trek to the Lula Lake Land Trust to engage with community members. In early fall, they held three camping weekends for deaf and hard of hearing people ages 16-18.

“From these programs, we hope that [participants] walk away with a sense of confidence in their abilities, with resume skills they can list, and with volunteer hours,” says Lane.

In her own words, Lane shares more about the YES program and how it inspired her.

— I like the outdoors. I find such a sense of peace outside and it should be open to everyone. Everyone should have this opportunity.

— I can say with certainty that this internship is unlike any other internship I have done before.

— My work is valued. I feel like my voice is heard and I have strong leadership to guide me through this process.

— If I had a child who was also hard of hearing, I would want him to be able to fully enjoy the outdoors.

— Taking an active stance against discrimination is what I tell people the most.

– I was looking at the Southeast Conservation Corps website, and saw this post, and thought this would be a great opportunity for me to leave college, take what I’ve learned… and to be able to apply it to something that I didn’t have when I was growing up.

“I’m very lucky that the search engine guiding me that day led me to the Southeast Conservation Corps website.

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Eleanor Lane with Southeast Conservation Corp reconnaissance trails for upcoming programs at Greenway Farms.


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