Stimulating other senses for those dealing with vision loss
Flowers are beginning to shoot from the ground and CNIB’s garden will soon be in full bloom. This fragrant garden though is not quite like others — it also serves as a training ground for those with impaired or full visual loss.
Located at 15 Colonel Baker Pl. NE, its fully accessible and barrier-free features allows CNIB’s clients to stimulate other senses and help build confidence around mobility.
The garden is located on the north side of the CNIB (formerly known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) building and is now a staple landmark in the Bridgeland and Riverside communities.
Not just a garden
Cathy McFee, Executive Director of CNIB Alta. and NWT., says, “[It’s] a place where people can really reflect. A place where people of all ages: seniors, kids etc. can develop the confidence they need in terms of travelling and a safe place where they can practice mobility and gain skills of independence.”
The design behind the garden’s structure was done by one of the CNIB’s clients whose specialty is in the area of horticulture. After doing some research, particular plants were selected for their contrast in colour and smell. Roses like Dart’s Dash and Hunter Red, the Russian sage and tulips are among some of the flowers.
Photo courtesy of: CNIBThe institute’s outdoor-classroom features visits to the garden for children with partial or full vision loss.
McFee explains, “[The] garden is an attachment of the classroom. We hope to enhance the garden to become that learning experience for children who are just learning about vision loss.”
Children can regain confidence and strength in mobility by walking on strategically designed pathways, using the Braille signs placed in the garden and their other senses.
Support groups are also held within the garden with groups visiting from places like Drumheller, Claresholm and Nanton, Alta.
Garden opens possibilities for Calgary poet
Stuart McKay, a poet and client at CNIB, has always had a visual disability and can’t see out of his left eye.
Photo courtesy of CNIBSince joining the institute last September, McKay has seen a mobility specialist who equipped him with a collapsible walking cane that will help him get around more easily.
“I love gardens, I have a wonderful [one] in my backyard, and I’m eagerly waiting for it to warm up. I love writing in gardens, it’s a joy for me. It smells just wonderful,” he says.
Since McKay only got to experience the end of the season last year – he looks forward to returning and being able to experience the smells of the lilac bushes and the sound of the waterfall.
Calgarians invited to help sustain the garden
Over the past year, CNIB has been granted federal government funding to reconstruct their pathways since they were becoming unsafe to walk on.
“We had lots of concerns, many seniors have to give up their homes and their gardens so this is part of their regular [routine], a place where they socialize and relax. So, there were a lot of concerns when it was under renovation,” says McFee.
The garden is open all year around and volunteers, staff and clients do their best to keep up maintenance and make it accessible for everyone.
CNIB is now featuring a new fundraising initiative that allows the public to purchase an etched tile or brick in the garden inscribed in celebration, recognition or memoriam of those they know with vision loss. Bricks can cost anywhere from $250-1000, depending on the size.
McFee says they hope this will provide them with some ongoing sustainable revenue and continue to help support the garden’s maintenance and development.