By: Christina Hughey
Most people enjoy going on a walk outside to relax, especially in the spring and fall season. Unfortunately, not every trail is accessible for everyone, often when thinking about accessibility people often think of accessibility for wheelchairs. More places need to be wheelchair accessible that’s for certain, but accessibility is a wide term. What is accessible for someone using a wheelchair is not necessarily accessible for someone who is blind. Some people may even have the misconception that someone with a visual impairment can’t go on trails or hiking. That is simply not true. With the proper design and equipment, someone who has a visual impairment can go hiking too.
This is possible and fortunately, we are now seeing braille trails popping up worldwide. A braille trail should include a few accommodations such as signs in braille, its encouraged to have a looped trail, a smooth path, and a way finding rope. Implementing these designs will make the trail usable for someone with sight impairment. Having a friend to hike with or a trained hiking leader, or a guide dog are other things that are helpful too.
Here in Missouri we are lucky to have a few outdoor spaces made specifically for those who are blind. Most residents of Missouri are familiar with Elephant Rock State Park and may even be surprised to know that they offer a braille trail. It is designed especially for people with visual and physical disabilities. This trail allows people with a visual impairment to be able to hike with everyone. Ozarks Sensory Garden and The Zimmerman Sensory Garden are two other outdoor spaces made especially for people who are blind. With hope we will continue to see growth in the development of outdoor spaces made for a much wider range of abilities.