Spending time outdoors has been proven to offer many different benefits. Scientific studies suggest that going outside can help boost creativity, restore focus, and aid in relaxation. All people could gain from these effects, especially people recovering from injury as well as those with disabilities. Often, however, natural areas are not made with these groups in mind.
This certainly doesn’t mean we should give up trying! There are lots of resources available that can help you call for more accessible spaces in your community and give you tips for tweaking your home to better accommodate those with disabilities. Today we will be exploring some simple ways you can remove those barriers in your home garden that keep people with disabilities from enjoying time in nature.
One of the most important aspects of a barrier-free garden is that it has a quality path. It’s important that the path is wide enough for a wheel chair and that it is smoothly paved and continuous. The minimum width should be around 152cm. Concrete, brick, or granite pathways are what experts recommend for this.
Further, the path should have only a gentle slope, even less than the one pictured in this garden by italiagiardini is ideal. Yet, a path with a small slope is certainly better than including steps in the garden, since this makes wheelchair access virtually impossible.
For those with visual impairments, the right lighting is essential. Including some lighting on the pathway itself, such as these small LEDs featured here, is incredibly useful for guiding the visually impaired along the path. Motion sensor lights are also helpful for illuminating spaces as the visually impaired person moves through the garden.
It’s important to remember that lights that produce a glare can be disorienting and confusing to a person who relies on light for guidance. This is another reason that ground lighting is more effective in barrier-free gardens than overhead lights. Further, you may also want to consider how accessible the light switches to these outdoor lights are inside the home. Ideally, light switches should be no more that 110cm high.
Another way you can better ensure the garden is barrier-free is to install an automatic watering system. Doing so will help those with physical disabilities immensely, as it will cut down on the amount of regular physical labour they must do to maintain the garden. This way they can simply set a timer and adjust the length of time that the lawn or garden needs to be watered instead of watering it manually with a hose.
Typically, hoses are situated on the ground or around hooks that are too high for folks with wheelchairs to reach. An automatic watering system will help to make maintaining a lawn or garden much easier for people with many different kinds of disabilities.
Naturally, an important part of a barrier-free garden is that the flowerbeds are accessible. An inaccessible flowerbed in the garden where a disabled person hopes to work kind of defeats the entire purpose of gardening, doesn’t it?!
Luckily, there are a multitude of different kinds of raised flowerbeds available. For one, you could go modular with a row of raised beds. This look makes care of multiple flowers and plants easier, and it maximises space. In a smaller scale operation some individual raised flowerbeds like the one pictured here will do the trick. Plus, individual raised flowerbeds can have decorative features like this one that’s shaped like a wheelbarrow. Just pay attention to how the decorative features might make it more inconvenient or difficult for those with disabilities to work effectively.
Just as the automatic sprinkler system will help remove barriers for maintaining the lawn or watering plants, opting for plant varieties that require little maintenance in the first place will be a big help. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the beauty and vibrancy of the garden. There are many different options that require little care but are still striking and lovely.
For instance, perennials like the ones featured here are excellent options for those looking to create a barrier-free garden. That’s because once they are planted, they will bloom continually on their own. Try to stay away from plants that must be brought in during the winter, especially larger ones. Fragrant plants like lilies can help add sensory stimulation to the barrier-free garden, too.
Lastly, creating a barrier free garden requires that the tools are accessible to people with different disabilities. Whilst the tools pictured here are excellent for the able bodied individual, ergonomic tools specially made to accommodate those with disabilities are better for the barrier-free garden.
Some examples of ergonomic tools are those with extendable handles for better access or those made of lightweight aluminium alloy. Further, tools with handles designed for better grip and those with curved handles are also helpful for some. There is lots of information about tools specifically designed for certain disabilities online.
For more information about choosing the right flora for your garden, check out this guide to decorating the garden with plants.