Gardening for the disabled
Gardening is the hobby of so many people , so it would be a shame if a number of them have to give it up because of a disability . It is also beneficial to people with mental illness , learning difficulties or people suffering from depression. I need to mention the Camphill Trust in that connection as they do a lot for people with learning difficulties and disabilities. By engaging these people in gardening they feel much more part of our society and it gives them self confidence and improves their lives . (if you want to support the camphill trust community buy seeds from Stormy Hall, which you can order through this website)
For people with a disability it is very important to stay active and do things. Sometimes, people find gardening and other jobs they used to do more difficult simply because of age or sometimes illness or accidents prevent them to act in the same way as previously.
But there are a lot of tools available to help getting the job done, but it will involve
– More planning ahead of the task
– Suitable access to the site and the beds
– Taking breaks
– Using special tools , changing the height of beds, taking advantage of irrigation systems and other equipment.
– Getting advice from support groups and like the “able Gardener” or “carry on gardening”
Of course it depends on the disability how you plan your gardening tasks. For many people bending down, walking or carrying is impossible for others vision or strength in hands and arms could pose a problem . But there are answers to most of the problems.
IF you can’t bend down, you have to bring the soil to the right level (see raised beds) or use special tools. There are telescopic tools on the market and mulches help a lot with weeding. Also don’t hesitate to ask for help.
For people in wheel chairs it is important that access to the beds, taps and to the site are wide enough and level. Blind people or people with low vision should get familiar with the site first so they feel confident moving around. Plants with strong scent and specific feel are extra help. Other points of reference could be washing lines .
It is important to keep the jobs in the boundary of ability. Start with easier jobs and the chances that it will get easier and possible to move on are higher than starting with something difficult and getting frustrated. “Warming up” exercises or a bit a stretching are important, and so are breaks.
There are tools on the market with ergonomic handles, arm support cuffs, grabbers, light weight brooms and tools as well as telescopic ones. Also easy to use shears, weed pullers, double wheel wheelbarrows and of course the battery powered tools. (you can also convert some of your old tools by using plumber insulation round the handles for easy grip)
For watering some companies offer very sophisticated irrigation systems, from the simple soaker hose to battery powered drippers and sprinkling systems. IF you want to carry on with the watering can, use 2 small watering cans instead of 1 heavy one when carrying (easier for your back !) And remember the trick with mulching when the soil is wet and soaking the plants well and not so often when using a hose.
Lifting is another issue. If you have to lift things always keep the weight close to your body and if you are able squat down instead of bending down.
Bending down doesn’t do your back any good (that applies to all of us!) and using a kneeler a seat is a lot easier on your spine!
Doing gardening with friends or in a group might be easier and even if you want to try to do as much as possible yourself, don’t be shy asking for help.
I hope gardening will give everybody a lot of joy and satisfaction as well as pleasure and produce.