No matter who you are or where you’re from, at one point in your life you must have played in a park. Pretending to fly on swings, climbing jungle gyms, going up and down on a seesaw – parks are responsible for countless happy memories. Have you ever stopped to think how differently abled children navigate something as simple as a park? I confess, I did not until I heard that the City of Cape Town unveiled its first blind-friendly park.

Yesterday morning, The City the opened the park in Belleville between Berol Street and Beroma Crescent. It is a short distance from the Athlone School for the Blind and has been specially designed to make it easier for those with limited eyesight to enjoy – and it’s simply wonderful!

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport for Cape Town, Councillor Brett Herron says:
‘All children can play in the park. However, what makes this playground different is that we have used the same elements that you would find in other parks and implemented them in such a way so that children with limited vision, or no sight at all, can find their way between the different play areas. Thus, we have designed the park with special needs in mind and with the intention of giving these children the opportunity to interact with other children who are not visually impaired.’

So how is the park different?

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According to Herron, the park is divided into smaller areas and has a scented garden with indigenous plants to assist the visually impaired with navigation. There are low-seating walls cutting across the park to assist with acoustic way-finding. They create echoes that help the visually impaired work out their location by hearing sound that reverberates off the walls.

There is also an extensive relief mural on the seating wall. There are different stories on the mural that you can ‘read’ with your hands. Also and a variety of paving materials that lead to different play areas. While these changes seem minor, they make a world of difference to those who cannot see.

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The park has been funded by Transport for Cape Town (TCT). Over the past five months the TCT used approximately R1,1 million from its budget for non-motorised transport to create the park. The non-motorised transport programme is aimed at improving pedestrian facilities across Cape Town. They have also made sure the area around the park is easier for the visually impaired to enter.  It is fitted with universal access, dropped kerbs and tactile paving on both sides of the road.

Photography courtesy the City of Cape Town

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