Most people enjoy spending time in nature, including in parks and public gardens, but for people who are not able-bodied, gardening can be a challenge. It is a shame that more of these public amenities are not accessible to those with different physical needs, as nature and greenery can be very beneficial for the health and general well-being. If you wish to make a garden a more inclusive environment for everyone, here are some ways that they can be made more suitable for those with special physical needs:
1) Create More Space
Wheelchair users and those with other mobility issues need more space to move around. Unfortunately, gardens often have rough dirt paths which are very difficult to navigate in a wheelchair or mobility scooter. So level pathways would be appreciated, as would gravel paths if at all possible. Cutting back trees and bushes so that there is more room to maneuver also goes a long way in making it more accessible.
2) Add More Seating
Gardens are even more pleasant places to visit when they have seating so that visitors can enjoy the fresh air and the greenery, so consider adding one or two benches for people with disabilities to rest on and admire the view. You may find that these make the spot more inviting for able-bodied visitors as well.
3) Install Kneelers
Those with bodily impairments can often find it hard to sit or bend for any period of time. Therefore, we're encouraging you to consider putting in raised kneelers next to beds at ground level, so that physically-challenged gardeners can get up easily when they have finished.
4) Get the Right Tools
There are now a number of companies which supply adaptive gardening tools, so try to get some of these for your visitors with disabilities. These tools have extra-large and textured grips for those with limited strength in their hands, users with neurological deficits, and elderly people. Other specially adapted tools permit the users to use shovels and cultivators despites having a restricted range of movement in their hands. Some of these implements are for use while sitting down rather than standing and bending over. If you are responsible for a community garden, you may be able to obtain a grant for adaptive tools.
5) Irrigation for Everyone
Gardeners with disabilities also need to water their plants. Make sure that taps are placed at least two feet off the ground and make them easy to use by having levers instead of conventional spigots. If possible, the tap area should be gravelled to stop it from turning into a mud pit. An important health and safety point here: make sure that hoses and irrigation lines are securely installed so that they can’t get tangled up with crutches, canes, wheelchairs, etc.
6) Ask For Feedback
If you are in the process of adapting a public or community garden, do a survey in order to find out what people need. Ask them what features would be the most helpful to them, and encourage them to come and check out the space to make suggestions for improvements and adaptations.
There are many people with disabilities who are passionate about gardening, so it is important to be as inclusive as possible when designing and planning one of these community spaces.
Picture courtesy of www.universaldesignstyle.com
Image credit: Universal Design Style