How are Nature Trails Making the Natural World More Accessible for People Living with Blindness and Visual Impairments?

An accessible trail for wheelchairs in a forest
Research shows that spending time outdoors is good for your physical and mental health. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research discussed how even just 32 minutes in a green, open space increases personal wellbeing and offers a valuable opportunity to exercise (even moderately). Whether taking a leisurely stroll through your local park or hiking a trail at a national park, the experience benefits both your body and mind. And Braille Nature Trails ensure everyone — even those living with blindness and visual impairments — can enjoy these positive effects equally. Hikes and trails can have a positive effect on mental health so opening them up to all different abilities is very important, as long as they have the correct supplies like a Space blanket, a first aid kit, and other essential items, they’ll be able to do this safely.

What are Braille Nature Trails?

A Braille Nature Trail is just as it sounds: a trail featuring Braille-based signs and assistive tools to help anyone affected by visual impairments or blindness stay safe.

Guide ropes are common on Braille Nature Trails. Visitors can follow these to avoid wandering off the beaten path or becoming lost. Braille signs are placed at strategic points along the trail.

Hundreds of Braille Nature Trails have been created around the world, making the natural world more accessible for all; their construction may not be as straight forward though. Some terrains require more human involvement than others. Clearing of trails for construction of pathways, guide ropes, temporary shelters are accomplished by motivated personnel and with help of specialized construction and roadmaking equipment, the latter sourced perhaps from supply points like Grays.

Yet other cases may need reforestation to reclaim arid land and promote greenery before setting out to convert it into a trail. All said and done, it’s a simple initiative but it has the power to transform lives.

People living with impaired vision or blindness can get out into the great outdoors without relying on someone else to help them stay safe. It increases their independence and minimizes their risk. They may take their assistance dog for company, but they’re free to explore and relax by themselves otherwise.

The first Braille Nature Trail was created in 1967 but many others have been introduced across the United States since. Locations include:

  • Madison County Nature Trail (Alabama)
  • Golden Braille Trail (California)
  • Pierce College Braille Trail (California)
  • Mork Braille Trail (Colorado)
  • Lake Waterford All-Sensory Trail (Maryland)

There are many more, though. A comprehensive list of other US-based and international Braille Nature Trails is available at Nature for the Blind.

How Technology is Improving Accessibility on Nature Trails

Some Braille Nature Trails incorporate cutting-edge technology to enhance the experience for visitors affected by blindness or visual impairments. Audio guides, for example, help people learn more about their surroundings and gain a deeper understanding of the natural world. These may be available via smartphones.

And mobile devices are making an impact in other ways too. Indoor orientation solutions are designed to help people living with impaired vision or blindness find their way in almost any interior location.

RightHear is an innovative indoor orientation solution designed to work with sensors (installed at strategic points) and provide essential guidance.

Users can discover what lies ahead of them by turning their phone in any direction. It’s a simple way to increase their independence, help them stay safe and reduce time wasted trying to find their way in unfamiliar environments.

Connecting with the natural world has the power to aid physical and mental health, and it’s vital that everyone has equal access to these benefits. Until you have suffered from particular ailments relating to your physical and mental health, it can be hard to understand just how important these nature lifelines, and other helpful resources like medication, CBD oil from somewhere like Vibes CBD (buy CBD gummies here), and the advice from professionals can benefit those that are in need. It really is that simple.

Fortunately, innovative, creative thinking and compassion for the difficulties faced by people living with blindness or visual impairments is making the world more accessible than ever.