Accessibility

Nature Excursions for the Visually Impaired

I just got back from walking the dogs. A colleague texted me and said how she loves walking with her sister in the evening. My physical therapist who is helping me with my ouchy ankle, talked about how the isolation from the COVID-19 lockdown (tell me we are done with that!) really is not affecting him. He leaves work and heads for the woods with his bike most evenings.

No, the theme here is not exercise, although that is a good guess. The theme here is nature.

Nature in the modern era

We, in general, do not get enough nature these days. We in particular - speaking of the “mature” (not me!) visually impaired - really do not get enough nature. The problem with that is we definitely need it.
Consider, using the Industrial Revolution as the start of primarily indoor labor, people were working and even living outdoors until about 250 years ago. Nature gives the age of modern man as 200,000 years.1 Roughly speaking, that gives us 199,750 years to be in the natural world. Don’t you think we may have adapted to it?

The benefits of nature

And not just adapt, thrive! Nature makes us healthier than we would be otherwise. I always heard people with a hospital bed near the window get better faster. I cannot find the study evidence but I would believe it.

Nature also makes us happier. I can give you anecdotal evidence but don’t take my word for it. In 2017, Yes magazine published a piece entitled How Nature Makes Us Healthier and Happier. If you want the study evidence as well as some interesting thoughts as to why this is true, check out the article.2

Nature hikes for the visually impaired?

Now I know some of you are grumbling right now. I know someone somewhere is making comments about being visually impaired and not being able to get out in nature. Au contraire! I beg to differ because I know there are natural places we can go.

How to take advantage of trail resources with a visual impairment

RightHear published a nice article outlining how nature trails are making the natural world more accessible for people living with blindness and visual impairment. The Braille Trails feature Braille signs and assistive tools to help people with visual impairment to get out and still stay safe.

I do not read Braille

I do not read Braille and suspect you do not either. However, I have also seen trails with QR codes. Remember QR codes are those barcodes made up of squares and other geometric shapes. QR reader apps are available in the App Store. Some Braille Trails offer audio guides. The audio guide may be available on smartphones.

Other adaptations tend to be a bit lower tech. Wooden walkways and guide ropes can keep people from wandering off into the woods.

More on Braille Trails

Braille Trails are not new. The first one was created in 1967 and since then the idea has really caught on. They appear to come in all shapes and sizes and levels of difficulty. For example, the Wexford, PA. loop is less than a half-mile. I had to giggle because that one offers a scenic view. Really? 🤓

Results of my search also yielded 1000 Steps Trail which looks like a bit….uh, difficult climb. I cannot believe it is a Braille Trail. Be sure to double-check before you go.

Enjoy the great outdoors

So, get out into the natural world. Be happy! In the words of the late, great Manny Gordon “Enjoy! Enjoy!” (Trivia points to the NEPA resident who can tell me who Manny was.)

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