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Enabling Garden Design


Millions of individuals with disabilities garden or would garden if given greater accessibility to tools and techniques that would facilitate this hobby. The fact that a person has a disability and participates in horticulture should not be taken to mean that they are involved in horticultural therapy. Having a disability does not require that all future daily life activities be considered therapy. Once persons have completed rehabilitation or therapy treatment, the term is no longer applied to their activities. In recent years, numerous books (Cloet and Underhill, 1990; Please, 1990; Yeomans, 1992; Adil, 1994; Rothert, 1994) and articles (Beems, 1985; Neace,1985; Bubel, 1990; Relf, 1994) have been published, targeted to gardeners with disabilities. With our rapidly aging population, this will be a growing area of concern. The horticulture industry is beginning to recognize the potential of this market, thus a few relevant articles have appeared in trade publications (Fuller, 1993; Saunders, 1994).

Several arboreta and botanic gardens have demonstration gardens that assist individuals with disabilities in developing home gardens. In addition, many arboreta and botanic gardens, recognizing the need to include disabled, elderly, and disadvantaged individuals in their programs and addressing the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, are making buildings, grounds, and display areas accessible, and expanding the scope of their existing educational programs to make them of interest and value to special populations.

The Friends of Horticultural Therapy, a support organization of the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), has as one of its areas of concern making gardening more accessible to everyone. They promote horticultural therapy by publicly advocating and providing information about making the garden more accessible to disabled individuals.

The key features of an Enabling Garden are:

  • Accessibility

  • Sensory Interest (sight, sound, smell, touch)

  • Reflective areas

  • Active programming so the experience of gardening is made available to all segments of the population


Guelph Enabling Garden
Enabling Garden – Altoona, Iowa
American Society of Landscape Architects

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