Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gardening Access & Assistive Technology

Our backyard has become a sanctuary for our family during the warm Spring/Summer months.  It’s our family’s favorite place to host guests for celebrations and perfect for impromptu picnics with our daughter. The diversity of plants, trees and the spacious layout of our backyard has turned my husband and I into weekend gardeners.

I remember reading an article about “vertical gardening” and how easy it was for wheelchair users who live in an apartment or a small space without much of a backyard to grow their own produce. Although the idea of “vertical gardening” was interesting to me, I guess you could say I’m more of a traditional type of gardener. 

I enjoy looking out into my yard and seeing lots of big colorful bushes growing everywhere. Fortunately for us, we have the space to do just that and have planted over two dozen different varieties of plants and trees.   

I think it was kismet that we ended up in the house we. The previous owner did not have a physical disability and could have grown his own garden directly from the ground. However, to our advantage, he did not.  Instead, he built five large above-ground accessible planting boxes. He did this because he wanted to prevent his dogs from potentially destroying his own precious garden.  

Each of the accessible above-ground beds is 2.5 feet wide, 6 feet long and about 3.5 feet deep. They’re the perfect size for my husband and I who are both short stature and for me, who also uses a wheelchair.

I already mentioned that our backyard has a spacious layout, but initially I wasn’t able to contribute much to any gardening efforts because to access the beds it required first going down a half a flight of stairs from our patio deck. Once in a while I’d get down there, but not nearly as often as I would have liked. 

There is one above-ground planter box on our deck and it has always been considered mine by default. In 2011 our backyard went through a much needed renovation. We saved up our money and made it universally accessible. We didn’t remove the deck or take out the stairs, but instead we designed a path with pavers that make it possible to get to all parts of the backyard and garden whether you walk or roll.  

The downside is that it also makes it possible for me to get to the basement now, which is where our washer and dryer live. Guess who gets to help out with the laundry now? You got it... me!

Aside from the accessible pathway that we added, which one could say looks like  a designer-styled ramp, my husband and I also use some tools that make gardening easier for us as short stature people. 

We use lightweight extending pruners to keep our plants and trees groomed. We found the pruners at a local Gardening Show and they come in a variety of lengths which work perfect for us. We have one that can reach up to 4 feet and the other 2 feet. We’ve had them for years and when we get the opportunity to revisit the annual Garden Show, the company that we bought the pruners from greases them up and makes them nearly new for us again.  

Gardening is a great way to spend the day outdoors and our whole family, including our pets, appreciates the easy access design, but the fruits of our labor too!  We try to take full advantage of all of our space and garden as many months throughout the year as possible. 

Here is a captioned and narrated video tour of my backyard. Enjoy!



  1. The diversity of plants, trees and the spacious layout of our backyard has turned my husband and I into weekend gardeners....berry plants

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