‘The Garden of Senses’ gives children with visual disabilities a chance for education and social inclusion

More than 50 children from the ‘Educational Centre for Kids with Visual Disabilities’ (ECK) in Owinska, close to Poznan, Poland have a unique chance for rehabilitation, education and spatial orientation training in a newly created, open air garden.

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This stunning park helps people with disabilities learn how to navigate the world around them.  © Starostwo Powiatowe w Poznaniu This stunning park helps people with disabilities learn how to navigate the world around them. © Starostwo Powiatowe w Poznaniu

" It took a lot of effort to complete this project but it was more then worth it. It is wonderful to see how this place helps children with disabilities to learn to live in the outside world and how eager they are to do so. I’m also very happy to see how interesting this place is for non-disabled people who have an opportunity to get to know the needs of people with disabilities. It teaches empathy and helps us to live together instead of next to one another. "

Jan Grabkowski, Poznan district governor

This project was an initiative of local authorities and the staff of ECK. The garden was created in 2012 with the support of EU funding. The spatial training is necessary to prepare kids to live on their own and to improve their chances of functioning without unnecessary limitations. The marginalisation of people with disabilities is being challenged with this initiative.

One of a kind

The garden has a surface of 25 000 square meters. It is established in an old Cisterian garden and is kept in a baroque style with tall trees, smaller ornamental woody plants, blooming flowers, fountains and small springs with flowing water. All these elements give people with visual disabilities strong and different sensory stimuli, instead of visual stimuli.

The rehabilitation of visually disabled people is mainly based on the stimulation of other senses which take over the role of sight in spatial orientation. The training teaches people with disabilities how to move around using hearing, sense of touch or smell. It gives them confidence which is crucial to function in the outside world.

The garden is equipped with 50 professional machines. There are special paths with different surfaces which helps people learn to recognise different structures with their feet or a walking stick, an obstacle course to train the sense of balance, and so called “sound tracks” which teaches people how to find directions using hearing instead of sight.

In the special sound library children get to know more than a thousand different sounds from urban surroundings – like the ones of an approaching tram, passing car or the sounds from railway stations and airports. The sounds are recorded in different weather because they differ in the sun or in the rain.   

For social inclusion

In “The Garden of Senses” children not only learn how to walk on their own but also how to bike or skate. The training also includes recognising plants and flowers by their shape or smell to help children with visual disabilities enjoy nature. It also aims to integrate kids with disabilities with other kids through common classes organised by the staff of ECK.

The garden is visited by almost 20 000 people every year. The place is very popular not only among kids abut also among adults with visual disabilities who find the spatial orientation training useful and entertaining.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Creation of open recreational area for children from the Educational Centre for Kids with Visual Disabilities in Owinska and for the inhabitants of Poznan County” is EUR 1 405 699, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 716 440 from the Operational Programme “Greater Poland” for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Draft date