Here’s an article about the accessibility of our garden, published in Southside Living Magazine, 2016.
From its inception, the Southside Place Community Garden was designed to be an inclusive facility, allowing direct participation for people of all ages and abilities. The raised beds have wide top ledges so that they can serve as seating for gardeners. A concrete ramp was added to the parking lot with a gradual grade. The distance between the raised beds allows for wheelchair access. Crushed granite was chosen in lieu of bark mulch to provide a wheelchair-friendly surface, even after heavy rains. Little did I know that the garden’s actual wheelchair accessibility would be put to the test by me.
On a pleasant Saturday morning, I was out for out for a run around Rice Village, a route I’ve done innumerable times. The weather was unusually nice for August and many neighbors were out walking their dogs, running, having breakfast at Le Peep, and enjoying the unseasonably cool morning. Perhaps I was on autopilot running this familiar route because as I crossed Kirby at University Blvd., I was hit by a car. I suffered six broken ribs, and broken sternum, a broken foot, a nasty cut on the forehead and a concussion. The broken foot prohibits walking and the broken ribs prohibit the use of crutches, so I am wheelchair bound for six weeks. This provide an opportunity for me to experience firsthand how accessible the garden truly is.
The Lukats lent me the use of their GoGo electric scooter, a highly maneuverable and powerful motorized cart. It allows me the freedom to get from Jardin St to the garden quickly. What I discovered is that it is difficult to access the garden from the front path. There is no curb cut at the path and there is edging material in the way. However, the scooter has no problem getting into the garden from the parking lot, as the concrete ramp was designed specifically for this purpose. Once in the garden, making a left turn is not an option due to a veritable wall of landscape edging stones blocking the path. Taking a right requires driving over the grass, which is considered to be a wheelchair accessible surface except when it is saturated. The most difficult place to access are the compost bins in the rear of the lot but the motorized scooter can travel over grass and gravel with aplomb. Unfortunately, there is no access under the pergola because the rise of the concrete foundation is too high. Nor is there access to the shed because it has front steps instead of a ramp.
My new (selfish?) goal is to improve the accessibility of the garden. The curved, front path can be continued for easy access, perhaps with a curb cut at the street. A ramp of crushed granite could allow wheelchair access under the pergola. The landscape stones, leftover from the days before we had a concrete foundation, will be removed. Long-handled tools can be provided to gardeners in wheelchairs, even if they cannot get into the shed. With slight modifications, the garden can be a wheelchair-friendly place to be enjoyed by all. While my injuries are not permanent, my dedication to making the garden a handicapped-accessible space is.