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I love the idea of creating a garden for the blind. Blindness is something I have given a lot of thought, as I have Glaucoma, an eye disease that untreated leads to blindness. Doctors said that had I not been diagnosed, I would have been blind by the age of ten. Luckily, in my case, they did catch it and I am able to see. Being so close to losing my sight has made me think very seriously about life as a blind person; and I often try to do everyday things with my eyes closed, such as getting ready for bed and playing the piano, to see how much of an adjustment I would have to make. The first thing that I notice when I try to do something with my eyes closed, is the immediate need for touch. Although the other three senses, audio, olfactory, and taste are also important and I plan to incorporate them into my garden as well, however, my main focus will be on the sense of touch.
To begin with, the area designated for the garden is fairly steep, therefore it is necessary to decide how to set the path through the garden. Our class trip to the Butterfly Rain forest, and being able to go through blindfolded, was a great resource for ideas on creating this garden, particularly with the need to create an environment that is easy to navigate without sight. Stairs provide obvious difficulty for a garden for the blind, therefore, I have decided to use sloping ground, which although more expensive, would be safer and an easier environment to navigate. Also, as an additional benefit, the garden would be wheelchair accessible. To line the garden path, either a natural pressed dirt ground, or a highly durable short sod ground could work, both of which are natural options. However, recycled tires, much like the surface of nice running track surfaces, would make an easier to maintain surface, that incorporates recycled materials and gives more of a response to the act of walking by adding an extra bounce (in addition to being even more wheel chair friendly than the previous two natural options).
The main focus of the garden that I think would create an extraordinary environment, unlike anything else existing, would be the incorporation of marble statues periodically along the path that visitors to the garden would be encouraged to touch.
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The path should wind down and around, curving to both maximize the space available and to avoid steep slopes. The path ultimately should lead to a wooden amphitheater, rounded off and facing the garden. Several benches could be placed facing the amphitheater and the space would become one designed for the auditory sense. The space could double on occasions or for events and performances from musicians or students.
The plants in the garden obviously would be another big focus. Plants should be divided up into categories, especially scented plants, so they would not overpower each other, and each section of the garden would have a different distinct fragrance. Obviously the different sections could differ as desired but heavily fragranced flowering plants, such as gardenias, lilacs, lavender, etc. would be nice toward the beginning of the path, to give the sense of a traditional flower garden. Then as the path progresses, smaller sections, such as an herb garden, and fruit plants such as citrus, blueberry, or banana plants would not only engage scent, but also allows the ability to taste, which would have to be monitored, but should be encouraged to involve all of the senses other than sight.
The sound pollution of Museum Road would effect the serenity of the location, there fore it would also be nice to incorporate fountains or other natural noise distractors of that nature to take back the focus from the disturbance of the road, and refocus it on things in closer proximity, inside the actual garden.