Gardeners are employed by people with disabilities and people with disabilities are gardeners. Gardens are sources of natural beauty that encourage physical movement, social interaction, and the consumption of healthy produce.
Gardeners use standard and adaptive gardening equipment to care for plants, grass, trees, herbs and flowers. Manual and power- driven tools help gardeners to water and nourish the soil, plant, trim trees and shrubs, mow the grass, and transplant plants to healthier conditions. Approximately 3 out of 4 gardeners are employed in private, single-family homes (67%). (“Lawn and Landscape”, December 24, 2013).
Gardens promote emotional health and physical health, encouraging socialization, physical movement, and the incorporation of fresh fruits and vegetables into a standard diet. Many plants, herbs and flowers, and some trees, can be nurtured and enjoyed indoors. Container gardens can create a blossoming bridge to natural beauty for people with severe physical disabilities. Gardens may decrease stress in some people with health-related disabilities as suggested by the medical treatments centers that use “healing gardens” as one approach to wellness.
Adaptive gardening equipment is available to gardeners with a wide range of disabilities, including range of motion limitations, balance and mobility impairments, and disabilities of the hand, wrist, arm and shoulders. Popular equipment includes:
- - light-weight, stainless steel tools with wide handles and long reach
- - cuff arm supports
- - spring loaded cord reels and air hoses
- - collapsible ladders
- - rolling work seats
- - saws, blowers, vacuums and drills that are powered by gas, batteries and electricity
- - custom designed power wheelchairs
In planning your garden, consider the costs of on-going maintenance as well as initial costs. Inquire about other necessary services, such as those of a landscape architect or engineer. Confirm that a prospective gardener has the necessary license to use pesticide, herbicide and fungicide. If you don’t want to use chemicals, ask about the gardener’s experience with alternative, “green” maintenance. Request a detailed, written contract. Request and check references. Consider a background search before hiring a gardener, if legal in your state, since gardeners are not required to meet state standards for education, experience and certification. And, keep in mind: The garden of your dreams must be able to grow in your local climate!