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All welcome on the Braille Trail
Enjoying the beauty of South Africa’s biodiversity at Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden …
Source and image: Flow Communications and SANBI
The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester began operating its Braille Trail last year. It’s the first of its kind in the country and is a universally accessible 154m route in the heart of the national botanical garden that allows people with disabilities, not only those with visual impairments, to enjoy the unique beauty of SA’s arid and semi-arid flora.
The trail features a variety of specimens that either have a beautiful fragrance or an interesting texture, or both. Visitors are invited to handle the plants, which are displayed in raised beds, so they are easy to access. The trail features comprehensive Braille signage; is wheelchair accessible; offers an audio guide; and includes an interactive exhibition of the common rocks of the Karoo so that visitors can touch, feel and learn more about them.
Says Lize Labuschagne, Environmental Interpretation Officer at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden: “The Karoo is home to some of the most spectacular plants on Earth. It’s high time that everybody – whether with a disability or not – enjoys this natural splendour and learns more about the unique Karoo biome and how vulnerable and beautiful it is.”
Worcester is the care capital of South Africa. The Pioneer School for the visually impaired and the Innovation for the Blind centre are both located in the town. Both entities invest significantly in empowering people with disabilities for self-sufficiency and independence. The Braille Trail in the botanical garden is evidence of the venue’s endorsement of their work.
“All persons have a right to enjoy and engage with the biodiversity of South Africa. It’s not a privilege that should be accessible only to persons without disabilities,” Lize says.
Although the Braille Trail has been in the pipeline since 2014, a lack of money presented a hurdle to its completion. The fact that it is now complete and open is thanks to support from various organisations and investors who share the universal accessibility conviction of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). These investors and partners include Worcester’s Pioneer School, North-West University and its Byderhand project, the Cape Winelands Municipality, Worcester Tourism, the Botanical Society of South Africa, and the Rowland and Leta Hill Trust.
The succulent collection at the botanical garden is a precious treasure, says Angelo Heyns, its Marketing Coordinator. “However, this garden is also the perfect place to experience the spectacular late winter Karoo desert daisy extravaganza and the stunning show that the vygies put on this time of year. It’s home to nearly 100 bird species, three species of tortoise and the charming little grysbokkie.”
Lize says the garden welcomes thousands of visitors each year. She and her colleagues now look forward to counting more persons with disabilities in that number.