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Great Outdoors Month Panel Discussion – Accessibility in the Outdoors: Changing the Narrative


Thu, June 13, 2024

6:30 pm

Motion Media Arts Center

2200 Tillery St #A, Austin, TX 78723


There is a pervading narrative that only certain types of bodies can be classified as “outdoorsy.”

This stereotype often excludes individuals with chronic illness, disabilities, neurodivergence, and folks of size; all of which are populations Explore Austin serves via a social-emotional learning-based outdoor adventure curriculum. This panel discussion will focus on the ways that natural spaces are frequently inaccessible or unwelcome to bodies that don’t fit the “traditional” outdoor enthusiast profile. 

Special Video Introduction By
Amy Denton-Luke, Founder of Disabled in the Wild
Amy Denton-Luke lives in Montana with her husband, Dave, and dog, Lucy. She is a rockhound, writer and lover of the outdoors. Her background is in anthropology and she has a growing interest in advocacy work. She’s struggled with illness since birth and has been disabled since 2015. She created her blog, “Disabled in the Wild,” in January 2022 to discuss issues affecting people with chronic illness and disabilities, and to encourage everyone to explore the outdoors.

Dr. Demekia Biscoe, Director of Education, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Dr. Demekia Biscoe joined the Wildflower Center in the spring of 2022. She previously lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and created educational programming for the Botanical Research Institute of Texas located at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Dr. Biscoe’s informal educational philosophy — to create relevant, engaging programs for diverse learners — was honed while serving students and families for over 18 years in public education. She earned a doctoral degree from Dallas Baptist University to further her impact on education. Dr. Biscoe enjoys exploring natural spaces as much as she enjoys creating wonderment around them. She promotes engaging youth in outdoor activities by serving as a board member for the Texas Children in Nature Network. She’s currently finding new outdoor adventures in her newfound home in Austin.

Ragen Chastain, Founder of Sized for Success
Ragen Chastain is a speaker, writer, researcher, Board Certified Patient Advocate, multi-certified health and fitness professional and thought leader in weight science, weight stigma and health. She is the author of the “Weight and Healthcare” newsletter, the blog “Dances With Fat,” the book “Fat: The Owner’s Manual,” editor of the Praeger Anthology “The Politics of Size,” co-author of the HAES Health Sheets, and co-founder of the Fit Fatties Forum.  In her free time she is a national dance champion, triathlete and marathoner who holds the Guinness World Record for “Heaviest Woman to Complete a Marathon.” She lives in Oregon with her fiancée Julianne and their adorable foster dogs. 

Leslie Jordan Garcia, Founder of Leslie Jordan Wellness
Leslie Jordan Garcia is a passionate, multi-certified, anti-diet Ed Recovery and wellness practitioner who has turned her personal struggle into a mission to help others heal and reclaim their power. With a unique blend of wit and empathy, and a social justice lens, she brings her own experiences to the table to create a truly transformative approach to wellness. 

Through years of eating disorder treatment, Leslie developed healthy coping skills and found a way to manage her disorder. However, while receiving treatment, she noticed a glaring gap in the conventional treatment approaches: They lacked relevance to her experiences as a Black person. This realization led her to understand that her struggle wasn’t just about controlling her body — it was about coping with oppressive systems. Fueled by this revelation, Leslie dedicated herself to crafting a holistic wellness approach that addresses not only the physical aspects of eating disorders but also the societal influences that shape our relationships with food, our bodies, and ourselves. Today, she works tirelessly to empower others by helping them heal and break free from diet culture and systems of oppression.

Syren Nagakyrie, Founder & Director of Disabled Hikers
Syren Nagakyrie is the founder and director of Disabled Hikers. Syren grew up with multiple disabilities and encounters numerous barriers to outdoor recreation, but has found a sense of connection and belonging in nature even though society has told them otherwise. They were inspired to create Disabled Hikers following one particularly difficult experience on the trail, during which a lack of information and access put them in a dangerous situation.

As a long-time disabled activist and community builder, Syren is committed to an outdoors culture transformed by representation, accessibility, and justice for Disabled and all other marginalized outdoors people. They’re the author of “The Disabled Hiker’s Guide to Western Washington and Oregon: Outdoor Adventures Accessible by Car, Wheelchair, and Foot,” and the forthcoming “Disabled Hiker’s Guide to Northern California,” both published by FalconGuides. They work with parks, organizations, brands and government agencies to improve access and belonging of the disability community.

Great Outdoors Month Panel Discussion – Accessibility in the Outdoors: Changing the Narrative