A space of their own

A garden for blind persons that explores more than just botanical learning

By Biswajeet Banerjee
Published: Monday 30 September 2002

A space of their own

In 1994, P Pushpangadan, then director, Tropical Botanical Research Institute, Vellore, visited the botanical garden in Warsaw, Poland. A board indicating a 'garden for the blind' set him thinking. "While the other members of the delegation went on to see the other sections of the garden, I walked into the garden for the blind," he remembers. The garden had a few aromatic plants, and little else. On his return to India, he started work on a garden for blind persons. However, before he could complete work on this project, he was transferred to Lucknow as director, National Botanical Research Institute (nbri).

Here, he wasted no time. A corner of nbri, used as a junkyard, was selected as the spot for the garden. Pushpangadan's project was more ambitious than the one he saw in Warsaw. He wanted to create a space where blind persons could walk around the garden without help, and understand details about the plants and flowers through explanations in Braille. Thus, nbri set up a garden for the blind -- the first of its kind in Asia, and sixth in the world.

The garden was inaugurated on July 21, 2001. Kamala Kulshreshtha, scientist, eco-education, nbri, says that blind visitors to the garden are encouraged to recognise flowers and plants by both touch and smell. Besides, there is a description of the floral kingdom and its place in the ecosystem written out in Braille. "I had been to gardens before, but was never able to distinguish between flowers. This garden opened up a whole new world to me," says Chandrashekhar, among the first few to visit the garden.

The garden has no poisonous varieties of plants nor plants with thorns. But then again, what's a garden without a rose! Kulshreshtha says the scientists at nbri produced a hybrid variety of rose, one without thorns (Rosa hybrida 'cultivar'). They named it 'City of Lucknow'.

The greatest challenge was to create a space where blind persons can move about without help. The 0.1 hectare garden is divided into four blocks. These blocks have direct access to footpaths lined with chequered tiles at zero elevation level. The path is punctuated with pebbled spaces. Small pebbled spaces indicate a board on the right, with information on the flowerbeds. Similarly, pebbled spaces in inverted 't' shapes identify turnings. Visitors can identify these pebbled spaces by tapping their sticks against the pavement. 12jav.net12jav.net

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