How Trails and Gardens Are Becoming More Accessible

Published December 16, 2020

Your ability to enjoy your favorite hobbies shouldn't be solely dependent on having strong vision. While some hobbies, such as hiking, may seem to be fairly visually-oriented, they can still be made more accessible. And they are, thanks to a handful of enhancements like trails with Braille maps, gardens that use senses other than sight, and audio guides and brochures, as reported by the Sierra Club.

What are Braille trails?

These trails are set up to be more accessible for people who are blind or have vision disabilities. Braille trails may have guide rope, a Braille map of the trail itself, Braille markers for informational signs, and mile posts. Some trails go even further, and have an audio guide or an application that you can use with your cell phone. A few trails even have walkways that are tactile, relying heavily on your ability to feel with your hands and feet.

These trails are often wheelchair accessible as well.

Sensory gardens incorporate beyond visualization

These gardens were created to provide sensory experiences to everyone that enters them. They use Braille informational signs, and incorporate the plant life itself into the experience such as having plants with strong scents, plants with pleasing textures and much more. These gardens may also have audio features, guide ropes, rails, garden beds that are raised, and tactile pathways.

Audio guides and brochures

Trails that provide audio guides and brochures are doing a lot of work to ensure that their visitors can enjoy their parks or trail to the fullest, and safely. This is a great step for accessibility, because the outdoors should never be taken away from someone because of a disability.

Furthermore, the Forest Service (PDF) is working on providing even more accessible forests and trails for the people in the United States of America as per the Architectural Barriers Act. This law essentially states that all federal facilities have to be accessible. This includes federally-run parks and forests.

A few activities that need to be accessible for everyone on federal property are:

  • Camping at a campground
  • Viewing the scenery at an overlook
  • Swimming at a beach
  • Enjoying solitude in the wilderness
  • Gathering information from the visitor’s center
  • Learning about an area on a trail

Some specific outdoor experiences that are accessible

Nature for All provides a full trail directory. Here are just some noted:

Sensory gardens:

  • Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens – California
  • Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens – Australia
  • Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden – Brazil
  • Finnish Museum of Natural History – Finland
  • Mendon Ponds Park – New York
  • Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca – Italy
  • Auckland Domain – New Zealand
  • High Hazels Park – United Kingdom

Trails:

  • Madison County Nature Trail – Alabama
  • Trees of the Forest Trail – Arkansas
  • Garden of Sensations – Brazil
  • Beaver Brook Braille Nature Trail – Colorado
  • Cotee River Lions Handicapped and Braille Trail – Florida
  • Abbey Gardens Sensory Garden – England

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