The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester opened its Braille Trail – the first of its kind in South Africa.
It’s a universally accessible 154m route in the heart of the national botanical garden that allows persons with disabilities – not only persons with visual impairments – to enjoy the unique beauty of South Africa’s arid and semi-arid flora.
The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden marked the closing of Tourism Month by officially opening the Braille Trail on Friday 30 September 2022.
The Braille Trail features a variety of specimens that have a either beautiful fragrance or an interesting texture, or both. Visitors are invited to handle the plants, which are displayed in raised beds so they are easy to access.
The trail features comprehensive Braille signage; is wheelchair accessible; offers an audio guide; and includes an interactive exhibition of the common rocks of the Karoo so that visitors can touch, feel and learn more about them.
Says Lize Labuscagne, environmental interpretation officer at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden: “The Karoo is home to some of the most spectacular plants on Earth. It’s high time that everybody – whether with a disability or not – enjoys this natural splendour, and learns more about the unique Karoo biome and how vulnerable and beautiful it is.”
Worcester is the care capital of South Africa. The Pioneer School for the visually impaired and the Innovation Centre for the Blind are both located in the town. Both entities invest significantly in empowering persons with disabilities for self-sufficiency and independence. The Braille Trail in the national botanical garden is evidence of the garden’s endorsement of their work.
“All persons have a right to enjoy and engage with the biodiversity of South Africa. It’s not a privilege that should be accessible only to persons without disabilities,” Labuscagne says.
Although the Braille Trail has been in the pipeline since 2014, a lack of funds presented a hurdle to its completion.
The fact that it is now complete and open is thanks to support from various organisations and investors who share the universal accessibility conviction of the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
These investors and partners include Worcester’s Pioneer School, North-West University and its Byderhand project, the Cape Winelands Municipality, Worcester Tourism, the Botanical Society of South Africa, and the Rowland and Leta Hill Trust.
The succulent collection at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden is a precious treasure at the garden, says Angelo Heyns, marketing coordinator at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden.
“However, this garden is also the perfect place to experience the spectacular late winter Karoo desert daisy extravaganza and the stunning show that the vygies put on this time of year. It’s home to nearly 100 bird species, three species of tortoise and the charming little grysbokkie.”
Labuscagne says the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden welcomes thousands of visitors each year. She and her colleagues now look forward to counting more persons with disabilities in that number.
Find the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Roux Road in Worcester. Visit www.sanbi.org/gardens/karoo-desert/ for more information on the garden and its Braille Trail.