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How to… make your garden accessible

10 February 2012
How to… make your garden accessible

Back in the early 1980s I worked as general manager at the Angel hotel, Abergavenny, which was part of the Trusthouse Forte group. It was a traditional Inn at the bottom of the high street. There was not a blade of grass around the hotel and it had no garden, yet it managed to win the prestigious Wales in Bloom trophy two years in a row. It also helped gain international recognition with a half-page article in the New York Tribune.

The cost of the garden developments was about £4,000 but managed to put nearly £40,000 on bottom line profit. It made me realise just how important walls, windows, courtyards and floral displays could be as a silent sales person for a hotel. It is something we considered in recent years when upgrading our household garden, making it an area that my family and I can enjoy - and most importantly that I can now navigate.

It's amazing how often little thought or consideration is given to the layout of borders and grassed areas around hotels. Too often areas are overgrown with weeds and plants have been left unattended for many months, if not years. The result is a poor first impression for all your guests. Hoteliers have missed out on their grounds and don't always see the benefits of creating an outdoor kitchen, or bar or both combined.

Another factor is that if you want to attract more people with disabilities then investing in your garden can be a profitable addition. Your hotel or restaurant might be difficult to access because it is on a hill, but your garden area might be flat and easy to walk round. Alternatively you might have some nice slopes in the garden where you could work to remove any steps, and make some interesting and relaxing walks for all types of residents.

Remember that it is not just what you can see in the garden. It could be what you hear or smell, if you have a sight or hearing impairment.

Make your garden area accessible for all and turn it into a new and profitable area for your business.
Arnold Fewell is a director of AVF Marketing and a permanent wheelchair user

Ways to make your garden more appealing to everyone

Use water features to create interest
The sound of running water can be very relaxing and even more so if you have a visual impairment. It will also help enhance any eating or drinking area that you may create for the summer months.

Appeal to all senses
Colourful and interesting areas in a garden are vital but so are the smells your plants create. Fragrant plants add a new dimension, especially to those with a visual impairment. Meanwhile, introducing bird music can also have a dramatic effect.

Provide information
Many people have an interest in gardening and take great pleasure from walking around a well-maintained garden. They may well discuss different plants and are interested in what they are, so providing information on unusual plants will help people identify them. This also helps a guide for the visually impaired, or a carer, as they may then be able to answer any questions their disabled companion might ask.

Ramp it up
Have gentle ramps that are easy to use. Gardens are ideal for gently sloping lawns and pathways. This means it is often easier, and more cost effective, to create a gradual pathway that everyone can use, rather than steps that may exclude wheelchair users or ambulant disabled people.

Create a garden guide
Have an audio description of the garden and what is in it, or have a guide on paper that the carer can use to tell the disabled person and the visually impaired.

Add light
Add lights to your garden so that you can extend its usage. A lit garden at night can have a magical effect, especially when light is shone onto water features or foliage.

Avoid gravel
Avoid gravel or stone pathways, as they are extremely difficult to navigate for wheelchair users.

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