Braille trails and sensory gardens offer sustainable and accessible ways to safely experience the outdoors and provide opportunities to interact with nature.
Braille trails and sensory gardens offer sustainable and accessible ways to safely experience the outdoors and provide opportunities to interact with nature. Tactile additions such as Braille signs, guide ropes and path markers allow the visually impaired to enjoy trails and gardens without assistance, and accessible pathways remove barriers to mobility regularly experienced by those with disabilities.
A Braille Nature Trail is a nature trail with Braille informational signs and physical aides that allow the visually impaired to experience the trail unassisted. Braille trails usually include a guide rope for the visually impaired to hold and follow along the path with markers for Braille informational signs. Some trails have tactile walkways to provide direction, others have audio components such as guided audio tours or smartphone access, and many are wheelchair accessible.
A sensory garden is designed to provide tactile experiences through the use of specific plants in a specially designed layout to create opportunities and accommodations for the visually impaired and others with disabilities to enjoy the touch, sound and smells of the outdoors. Sensory gardens usually have Braille informational signs and aromatic plants to touch and smell, and can also have audio features, guide ropes or rails, raised garden beds, and tactile pathways for the visually impaired to utilize to walk along the paths unassisted. Many sensory gardens are also wheelchair accessible.
There is not much information on building or renovating a braille trail. As part of the American Trails Advancing Trails Webinar series, the Creating Accessible Trails with Universally Designed Interpretation webinar provides an overview of Mass Audubon’s All Persons Hiking Trails. The All Person Trails typically have boardwalks and bridges over or alongside wetlands, some navigational resources (such as rope guides or curbing for visually impaired visitors), wayside multisensory stops and displays, and trail materials in multiple formats including audio tours, braille signage and booklets, and tactile trail maps.
Here's a few locations where visually impaired visitors can enjoy a trail, and a few where technology allows a person to listen through a smartphone.
You can also locate state contacts on our Resources by State page.
Published March 09, 2009
American Trails contributing author Josh Adams spoke with Greg Harris about the very exciting Rock Island Trail project. In 2019 the Rock Island Trail got a huge boost when a 144-mile corridor was donated to expand the trail.
The Lion's Tale is a National Recreation Trail that is specially designed to create a sensory experience for the visually impaired. Through a special mascot, Lop Ears the Mountain Lion, the trail tells a story using braille as well as other sensory methods.
In this National Recreation Trail highlight from the Sarah Zigler Interpretive Trail in Oregon, find out the history of the Jacksonville Woodlands Association and how they get hundreds of kids out on the trail every year.
Contributor Josh Adams interviews Wayne Dunker, the parks and recreation director of Washington, Missouri.