Accessible Gardening for People with Physical Disabilities: A Guide to Methods, Tools, and Plants

Accessible Gardening for People with Physical Disabilities: A Guide to Methods, Tools, and Plants

by Janeen R. Adil

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Gardening is such a satisfying activity. Patients with physical disabilities should not be denied the right to engage in gardening because of their physical disability or because their therapist has a brown thumb. This book gives you the information that you can use to have an award-winning (or even just satisfying) garden whether it is a large outdoor garden, a


Gardening is such a satisfying activity. Patients with physical disabilities should not be denied the right to engage in gardening because of their physical disability or because their therapist has a brown thumb. This book gives you the information that you can use to have an award-winning (or even just satisfying) garden whether it is a large outdoor garden, a window sill brimming over with color, or a small pot with one plant. The activities in the book are for all ages and levels of gardening skill.

Editorial Reviews

American Horticulturalist
I don't know what standards others use for judging how-to books, but I want simple, reasonably priced practicality, laced with sufficient cheerleading to convince me that the project is do-able. Adil has managed to provide this and more in her commonsense publication, Accessible Gardening for People with Physical Disabilities: A Guide to Methods, Tools, and Plants.

The book starts with a dose of inspiration, using stories of other handicapped gardeners as well as quotes from various experts, but then moves quickly into discussing the specifics of how to adapt your techniques, plot, and plants to compensate for a body grown immobile or unreliable due to age, injury, or disease. The methods and tools discussed span a number of continuums: from cheap to expensive; from relatively easy to install to ' you had better hire a contractor'; and from 'just let me grow something' to 'make it look like a showcase garden.' Regardless of your physical or economic status, there are adaptations here that will fit your tastes, needs, and price range.

As you would expect, a comprehensive appendix lists sources for plants, for gardening tools and supplies, and for further references and resources for disabled gardeners of varying abilities. When you might not expect is a chapter focusing on gardening for children, both with and without physical disabilities. Adil has a personal interest in this subject; her daughter was born with spina bifida, a congenital disorder that involves incomplete development of the spine.

I have been a handicapped gardener for nearly a decade, and assumed that I knew about every catalog and approach devised for adapting a garden. I was wrong. I never considered taping a funnel to the top of a hollowed-our bamboo pole and using it as a seeder. Nor had it ever occurred to me that I could set in transplants at ground level by placing a shaft of PVC tubing over the planting hole, sliding a plant down the tube, and then using my feet or a long-handled tool to settle it into the earth. And I never would have thought to warn disabled friends to remember that certain medications make you more sensitive to the sun, or that wire cylinders are safer than stakes for propping up tall plants if your condition makes you prone to blackouts or if you have difficulty maintaining your balance.

In short, whether you are a novice or experienced, either in gardening or in living with a disability, you'll find this a useful, uplifting book. As my grandmother used to say, "it gives good value for the money."

Product Details

Woodbine House
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.01(w) x 10.02(h) x 0.78(d)

Read an Excerpt

Children and Gardening

Children and gardening seem made for each other. It's a creative, physical activity that involves their whole body and all the senses; produces exciting results that can be eaten, smelled, or otherwise enjoyed; can be done indoors or out at any time of the year; promotes self-esteem and well-being; can be engaged in alone or with friends or family; teaches about nature and ecology; and, lets them get permissibly dirty! Moreover, a child who comes to love gardening is likely to carry this interest into adulthood, making for a satisfying hobby or even a career.

For this chapter I'm switching my focus a bit, by talking about kids and gardening. I'm going to assume that a parent, relative, friend, or teacher is reading this, for the simple reason that a child can begin to participate in some of these activities while only two or three years old. An older child can, of course, read the chapter for himself.

If you are already a gardener, you have a head start on interesting your young son and daughter in growing and caring for plants. If you haven't gardened before, participating in these activities with your child can open up new worlds for you both.

A child is both pleased and eager to do whatever mom and Dad-or siblings-are doing. Working together in the garden can bond a family in a unique way, and open the door to increased sharing and caring among its members.

Whatever gardening projects you decide to undertake, don't be too particular as to methods and results, especially with a young child. Remember that process is usually more important than product. That is, learning and doing tend to be more helpful to a child's development than concentrating on a final product. Be there as a guide, then, but let him learn from his mistakes and experiments.

Success in some from is important, however, so do choose dependable, easy-to-grow varieties of plants, or for the smallest children, seeds that germinate quickly. Hos successus alit: possunt, quia posse videntur, as the Roman poet Virgil put it 2000 years ago. "These success encourages: they can because they think they can." He wasn't referring to either kids or to gardening, but the point holds true nonetheless!

Why Garden?
Benefits for Your Child
If you are the parent of a child with a physical disability, you in particular know in important self-esteem issues are in the life of your child. Having a visible physical disability immediately sets that child off from his peers; if equipment like a wheelchair is involved, the difference is even more obvious. Gardening of course isn't the only activity that can do wonders for a child's self-esteem and physical health, but it certainly qualifies as an excellent choice. Consider some of the reasons why.

  • · A child with a physically disability has had more than her share of medical attention, treatments, therapies, and hospitalizations. Gardening can move her focus and concern away from the medical arena and redirect it to the more natural environment of the plant kingdom. The stress related to medical treatment may well be lessened by this change in the direction of her energies.
  • · A child with a physical disability may not have all of the freedom and independence of movement so associated with childhood. Caring for plants can help her reverse a dependency on adults and others by giving her a sense of responsibility and mastery over some part of her world.
  • · A child with a physical disability may have missed out on some of the sensory experiences of early childhood that are critically important to development. Lack of mobility, hospitalizations, etc. may have interfered with a child's ability to explore her environment first-hand. By involving the mind, body and all the senses, gardening can help make up for some of these missed or delayed experiences.
  • · A child with a physical disability may need extra encouragement to be physically active, whether to strengthen weakend muscles or to maintain muscle tone. Gardening provides the opportunity for either mild or more strenuous outdoor physical activity. Both fine and gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination, can be improved and developed.
  • · A child with a physical disability may have diminished self-confidence and self-esteem. Seeing gardening project through from planting to harvest reinforces a child's sense of accomplishment. It provides positive outlets for her in-born needs to nurture. For her creativity, and for her independence.
  • · A child with a physical disability, because of a feeling of "apartness,"may need help at developing good social relations. Becoming involved with others in growing and caring for plants fosters social skills and inter-active communication; all within the base of a pleasurable activity.

  • Gardening Safely
    Protecting Your Child
    To help ensure that your child's outdoor gardening experiences are both safe and fun, see that he's prepared with sun-screen, a hat, gloves, sunglasses, and appropriate clothing. Naturally you'll need to follow your everyday, indoor procedures too. From fastening the safety belt on a wheelchair to wearing protective headgear, take the required steps to safeguard your child.

    Avoid letting your child work in the heat of the day, and remember that short sessions are best-stop before he gets tired. Always have plenty of drinking water on hand, and watch for signs of over-exertion. Be especially vigilant concerning skin breakdown and pressure sores. Heat and perspiration may make this problem worse if braces or tool cuffs are rubbing against the skin.

    If your child is ambulatory, you may need to insist that shoes be worn outdoors, or at least while gardening. Nails, glass, and bits of rusty metal have a way of working themselves up to the surface of the ground. Especially if the homesite has been occupied for many years. The resulting threat to tender feet would make footwear a requirement.

    For the child who has little or no sensation in the lower legs yet can crawl, protection is also advised. Long pants, shoes, and socks will shield the skin, but if this clothing is too much to wear in hot weather, try knee pads for at least partial protection. Child-size gloves (see page 130) will of course guard the hands.

    Make sure vaccinations are up-to-date, as tetanus can be contracted from working with any garden soil. Ask your health-care provider if a booster is indicated for your child. And, since sunlight can cause adverse reactions with some medication s, talk with your pharmacist about any possible interactions.

    If occupational, physical, or other therapists are involved in your youngster's care. Let them know about your plans to garden. They can suggest specific ways for you to help your child strengthen muscles and improve skills while he's having fun in the garden. Finally, check with your doctor for any additional health and safety recommendations!

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