Transport for Cape Town, the City of Cape Town’s transport authority, is creating a blind-friendly park in Bellville within walking distance of the Athlone School for the Blind. The design and special features, including a scented garden and acoustic way-finding, will assist children with limited vision or no sight at all to orientate themselves in this outdoor space.
The park is situated between Berol Street and Beroma Crescent and is funded from Transport for Cape Town’s budget for non-motorised transport, a programme aimed at improving pedestrian facilities across Cape Town. The park will be fitted with universal access – dropped kerbs and tactile paving – along both roads, making it easier for those with limited eye sight to enter the grounds in the suburb of Beroma in Bellville.
‘Once completed, the park can be used by anybody. However, what makes this playground different is that we will use the same elements that you would find in other parks and implement them in such a way so that children with limited vision or no sight can navigate themselves between the different play areas. Thus, we have designed this park with those special needs in mind and with the intention of giving these children the opportunity to interact with other children who are not visually impaired,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member: Transport for Cape Town, Councillor Brett Herron.
Transport for Cape Town (TCT) has budgeted approximately R1,1 million for this project which should be completed by July this year, if all goes according to plan.
Apart from the input that was received at five community meetings, officials also engaged with the local ward councillors, the Athlone School for the Blind, and a mobility expert on how those with limited eye sight ‘read’ public spaces.
‘The most obvious place to start is to divide the park into eight smaller areas which will make it easier for those with limited sight to orientate themselves. To assist with navigation, we will create a scented garden with indigenous plants such as lavender, wild garlic and rosemary where the park borders on Beroma Crescent – as legs brush past, these plants will release a fragrance, stimulating the smell organ. Low-seating walls, cutting across the park, will assist with acoustic way-finding. The echoes will enable one to determine their location through hearing as the sound of feet and walking sticks will reverberate off the walls,’ said Councillor Herron.
An extensive relief mural will be installed on the seating walls. Those with impaired sight will be able to ‘read’ the stories on these walls by following the mosaic and tactile art with their fingers.
A goal ball court, enclosed with a fence and seating walls, is being built in the northeastern corner of the park for a game played by blind people in particular. This court can, however, also be used for other activities. Opposite the games court is space for grass and trees for picnics and informal games.
- A variety of paving materials, each leading to a different play area, will guide the children to the following spaces:
- A play area with asphalt humps for small bikes and scooters and games painted onto the surfaces
- An area with wooden play equipment on rubber matting to stimulate balance, encourage mobility, build confidence and improve muscle tone
- Play equipment within a fenced area, making it easier to tend to pre-school children in what can be described as a separate ‘room’
- Activity zones, fenced off into smaller areas
A path of special tactile pavers will connect the Athlone School for the Blind with the park – the first of its kind in Cape Town.
‘We were told small interventions make the world’s difference for those without eyesight when they have to move around in outdoor spaces. The greatest satisfaction will come from knowing that we have succeeded in doing that. I am looking forward to the day when the park will be officially opened to the local community and to having the visually impaired children interact with other children in the same space,’ said Councillor Herron.