Ilma Lever Gardens garden designed for wheelchair access
When working in various gardens for community usage I found we often needed to consider access for gardeners of a range of abilities without compromising the overall function of the design. I want to outline some things I have found useful to make spaces disability-friendly whilst also maintaining the permaculture principles of multiple use values and productive landscapes. Access issues you may need to consider include wheelchair movement, limited bending, blindness, unstable gait from stroke or acquired brain injury.
Many permaculture systems are beneficial as they already aim to reduce the amount of physical labour e.g. no dig, animals doing the work for you, zoning, etc. So here I will focus on more specific elements.
Have wide, even paths for a section of the garden with plants that do not overhang too much. Soft plants that hang a little over the edges are excellent as they add to the sensory experience. Espaliered fruit trees and arbours for vines or beans etc. make good use of space. These paths do require a higher energy input to be made wider and level so consider using them as heat traps or shade tunnels.
Wide gate on the chicken yard for easy access
The full article by Elspeth Brock covers appropriate tools, sensory garden design, raised beds and therapeutic gardens, to read it go to the Permaculture Research Institute website.