Botanic Garden Launches New Braille Trail

14 May 2009

A new walk to be launched at the Wellington Botanic Garden on 26 May has been designed to celebrate senses other than sight and the life of braille inventor Louis Braille.

Sensation Walk - Braille Trail has been developed by Wellington City Council and the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind to mark the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birth in France in January 1809.

The Council's Environment Portfolio Leader, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, says the walk is a sensational addition to the Botanic Garden that everybody can enjoy.

"It features plants and landscape features that have been chosen because they engage senses other than sight. There are plants on the trail to touch and smell, birds to listen to and a variety of different surfaces underfoot," she says. "This development is a great example of partnership in the city, in this case between the Council and the Foundation."

Braille awareness consultant for the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, Lisette Wesseling, says the Foundation was keen to help develop a walk that would appeal to tourists and the general public and are delighted with the result.

"It provides a multi-sensory way of learning about Louis Braille that will increase people's awareness of braille and hopefully inspire them to provide braille signs or brochures in their businesses," she says. "It is a stunning setting for a really inspiring story."

A short opening ceremony is planned at 1.00pm on Tuesday 26 May in the Botanic Garden Treehouse and, weather permitting, guests will also walk the trail, which starts near the Treehouse and ends at the rose garden.

Ms Wesseling says the 20-minute walk goes up to the Herb Garden and has some steps, so the Foundation recommends that blind people are accompanied by a sighted helper.

Brochures, available from the Botanic Garden Shop and Treehouse visitor centre in print and braille, explain the features of the walk and a bit about the life of Louis Braille, who went blind when he was three. He suffered an incurable eye infection after injuring his eye with one of his father's leather-cutting tools.

Features on the trail are marked with braille posts and tactile footpath markers.