The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester has opened its Braille Trail – the first of its kind in South Africa.
The trail is a universally accessible 154m route in the heart of the national botanical garden that allows persons with disabilities – not only the visually impaired – to enjoy the unique beauty of South Africa’s arid and semi-arid flora.
The Karoo Desert National Botanical garden marked the closing of tourism month by officially opening the Braille Trail on Friday 30 September 2022. The trail focuses on showcasing either beautiful fragrant flowers or flowers with interesting textures and sometimes both.
Visitors are invited to handle the plants, which are displayed in raised beds so that they are easier to access. In order to make the trail more friendly for the disabled, it features comprehensive Braille signage, wheelchair accessibility, 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.
‘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,’ says Liz Labuscagne, environmental interpretation officer at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden.
Worcester is the care capital of South Africa – the Pioneer School for the visually impaired and the Innovation Centre for the blind are both located in the town. Both entities invest significantly in empowering persons with disabilities for self-sufficiency and independence. The Braille Trail in the national botanical garden is evidence of the garden’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 only be accessible to persons without disabilities,’ Labuscagne adds.
Although the Braille Trail has been in the pipeline since 2014, a lack of funds presented a hurdle to its completion. The fact that it is now complete and open is thanks to the support from various organisations and investors who share the universal accessibility conviction of the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
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.
Labuscagne says the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden welcomes thousands of visitors each year. She and her colleagues now look forward to counting more persons with disabilities in that number.
Find the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden on Roux Rd Worcester or visit their webpage for more information.