Bellville welcomes blind-friendly park

The City of Cape Town’s transport authority, Transport for Cape Town (TCT) , has set aside about R1.1million to create the first blind-friendly outdoor park within walking distance of the Athlone School for the Blind.

The park in Beroma, Bellville, will be fitted with special designs and features, including a scented garden, acoustic way-finding, a goal ball court and an extensive relief mural.

A path of special tactile pavers will connect the school with the park – a first for Cape Town.

The project is being funded by TCT’s budget for non-motorised transport, a programme aimed at improving pedestrian facilities across the city. The project is expected to be complete by July.

“What makes this playground different is that we will use the same elements you would find in other parks and implement them in such a way 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 Mayco member for transport, Brett Herron.

The acoustic way-finding will assist children with limited vision or no sight to orientate themselves in this outdoor space. The park will also be fitted with dropped kerbs and tactile paving, making it easier for those with limited eyesight to enter the grounds.

Mr Herron said they had consulted with ward councillors, the Athlone School for the Blind, and a mobility expert on how those with limited eyesight “read” public spaces.

“We will create a scented garden with indigenous plants such as lavender, wild garlic and rosemary which releases a fragrance, stimulating the smell organ. Low-seating walls 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 Mr Herron.

Michelle Botha, from the Cape Town Society for the Blind, said accessible spaces for children to play and socialise are seldom prioritised among seemingly more urgent access needs such as transport.

“Spaces such as this can potentially be hugely important for the inclusion of blind and visually impaired children, who are so often isolated and excluded from so-called mainstream recreational spaces,” said Ms Botha.

The park will be divided into eight smaller areas which will make it easier for those with limited sight to orientate themselves. 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 variety of paving materials, each leading to a different play area, will guide the children to a play area with asphalt humps for small bikes and scooters and games painted onto the surfaces.