Monday, May 23, 2022

Accessibility Review: Florida Botanical Gardens

Accessibility Grade: B
The Florida Botanical Gardens is HUGE. To do the park justice, we decided to break it down into two sections, and grade them separately. In this post, we’ll just be going over the botanical gardens, and will save Heritage Village for the next one. A brief description of the botanical gardens is detailed below, along with a number of pictures that highlight important accessibility features, including key areas that showcase either accessibility or inaccessibility. The captions underneath each image will provide insight into accessibility, and will also include an image description for readers with visual impairment.

Accessibility Grade: B

The Botanical Gardens section of this park is absolutely gorgeous! It includes a number of parking lots, all of which have plenty of accessible parking spots WITH unloading zones. Inside, it featured a large variety of plants and animals that call these gardens home, including cardinals, blue jays, and even a mother alligator with her babies. Most of these exhibits are easy to access via wide trails that are fully paved. However, some of the smaller gardens could only be accessed by taking narrower trails that were made of packed dirt and shells. To make things better, the gardens also had a number of accessible bathrooms.

Here's a picture of Kyle's blue Toyota Sienna, in the parking lot of the Florida Botanical Gardens. The sidewalk is plenty wide for wheelchair users and leads in three directions. To the left, there are more accessible spots located outside of the picture's frame. To the right are more spots and an entrance to the park, which is also located outside of the picture's frame. Taking the sidewalk forwards will take you to the gift shop and rec. center.

Here are three more parking spots for accessible vehicles. Two unloading zones ensure that there's plenty room for mobility equipment users to safely enter and exit their vehicles.

In this shot, a white sign for the gift shop is shown, pointing straight ahead. There's a wide path, made of fake wood. There are a number of trees, bushes, etc. lining the path.
A path leads into the park, surrounded by trees on both sides. There is a map to the right of the path, and a blue box that says "Donations" written in white.

When you first enter the park, a wide landing leads to a boardwalk directly ahead. Suspended above it is a sign that reads "Welcome" in green letters, atop a white background. The boardwalk is wide enough for at least two wheelchair users to fit side-by-side. Two trash cans are located to the left of the boardwalk's entrance, and a white bench to the right of it. There are a few wildlife warning signs directly to the right of the path, and an advertisement for a catering company.
Here is another shot of the boardwalk that ushers you into the rest of the park. It's wide enough for two wheelchair users to get through side-by-side, though you may want to follow each other to allow others, who are walking in the opposite direction, to pass. The wooden boards on the floor are grey, and the handrails on either side are greening. There are trees and ferns on either side.

A wide path, which is also a bridge, crosses a river that winds through the park. There are potted plants on the left, surrounding a section that is shaded and has seats. This section is mostly out of the picture's frame.

The aforementioned shaded area, covered by a blue roof. Two potted plants are arranged, one at each side of its entrance. Inside are three benches, one on each side, with a lot of room for people who use mobility devices.

Two pillars, one on each side of the path, are peach-colored and have the words "Wedding Garden" carved into them. The entrance is extra wide, and can fit multiple wheelchair users side-by-side. There are trees on both sides that offer shade. Beyond the entrance, shrubs, trees, and a patch of green turf are visible. All of this is easy for power wheelchair users to navigate, though manual wheelchair users may experience some difficulty rolling over the turf.
Inside the Wedding Garden is a large square, containing a number of beautiful flowers that span along all four of the walls. The floor is made of square pavers that can be a little bumpy, but isn't bad. At the center of the garden is a large section of turf. This area is no problem for power wheelchair users, but may present some difficulty for manual wheelchair users. There are white column through out, and a white chapel located on the left side of the picture.

Here's another broad path that is wide enough to fit a few wheelchair users, side-by-side. Are you starting to see a trend? 😉 It cuts through a section of wood, so that there are trees on both the right and to the left. Behind the trees on the left is a lake, which is slightly visible in this picture. There is leaf litter on either side of the path.

This path isn't too wide, so it may be safer for wheelchair users to follow each other while here. Mulch is spread on both sides of the sidewalk, while trees and shrubs decorate the left and white flowers span the right side. In the distance is a short bridge, which is pretty smooth. After it, the path veers to the left.

A pavilion, which has a picnic table underneath it, is situated in the left side of the frame. "Palm Garden" is displayed in an arch, along the front of its roof. There is plenty of room for a number of wheelchair users to fit under it. Surrounding the pavilion is a paved courtyard. The ground has a stone-like texture, so wheelchairs users may experience a slightly bumpy ride while travelling over it. Beyond the courtyard is a path that is made of hard-packed shell sand. This area is maneuverable for wheelchair users, though it may be a little more difficult for some manual wheelchair users, whether their equipment is self-propelled or push. Keep an eye out for areas where the sand may look soft, which could result in your wheelchair becoming stuck.

This area of sidewalk is where four paths meet. In their center is a reddish circle, with "The Florida Botanical Gardens carved into it. There is a bouquet of flowers between the words "Floida" and "Botanical." The circle has enough space to accommodate a number of people who may be walking along any of these paths, all of which are wide enough to accommodate two wheelchair users side-by-side. The suspended vines, on either side, make it feel slightly sheltered.

Throughout the park, there are a number of lawn chairs that overlook a number of lakes. In this picture, a wide path leads guests along a lakeside. To the left, there are two, white lawn chairs placed underneath a large tree, with a wooden fence in front of them. The ground is bumpy because of tree roots. Because of these barriers, there isn't a great deal of room to accommodate a wheelchair user.

Luckily, there are a lot of lakes in the Florida Botanical Gardens. This area is much more accessible than the last. Though two, white lawn chairs occupy the right side of this space, there is a wide area to the left that is open, where a few wheelchair users can fit. This area feels isolated, surrounded by a variety of trees and ferns. Ahead is a lake, largely blocked from view by some water plants. A fountain is sending water outward, in a wide ring.

This section of pavement is situated next to a lake. It has a stone texture, which is slightly bumpy but isn't too bad. There are blue benches, which face each other, situated on the left and right side of this space. There is plenty of room for a number of wheelchair users between these benches. It's overlooking a lake, though the view is slightly obscured by some trees on the right.

Stationary viewfinders are really cool, especially when they give you a closer look at the far end of beautiful lakes like this one. However, since it is so tall and has such a wide base, it's inaccessible for people who can't achieve either a standing or elevated position. The area surrounding the viewfinder is covered with pavers that are pretty bumpy. In the background is a short, wooden fence, beyond which is a long lake. The shoreline is covered by a dense, green stretch of trees. The water's surface is dotted by lily pads and other, aquatic plants.
Right around the corner from the viewfinder is a courtyard, which contains a few shaded places to rest, as well as some restrooms. The pavers in this section are pretty bumpy, which isn't great for people who use mobility devices. There is a sign that reads, "CAUTION: Uneven Surfaces - Slippery When Wet." For those who have conditions that affect neck control, be careful while going over this area, and maybe ask a person to guide you.
The bathrooms that are located in the aforementioned courtyard aren't the most accessible. Both wheelchair users, and other people who are too short, may have a difficult time reaching the handle to get into the restroom. Since there are no automatic door openers, you may need assistance while entering and exiting. In this picture, though I'm reaching as high as I can, I'm unable to touch the handle. Note that I have really short arms, but a tall torso. However, once you're inside the restroom, the accessible stall is pretty standard.
The cactus garden is really easy to get around. The wide and winding sidewalk makes it easy to see cacti from a variety of angles. This feature is a great idea for wheelchair users, especially since a lot of us aren't very tall, making it tough to take in an entire exhibit. The curved path also makes it easier to navigate and see around other people.
As we've shown in a few pictures above, some areas of the park are separated by bridges. Most of them, including this one, are pretty smooth for wheelchair users. In this picture, Kyle is at one end, looking towards the other side. The bridge's floor is made of wooden planks that are a faded brownish-grey. Each side is made of a grated metal, which is dark grey and either faded or rusting in areas. There are eight white globes, four on each side, that are set apart an equal distance from each other and spanning the entire length of the bridge. Trees are on both sides of the bridge.
There are areas in the Florida Botanical Gardens that are only accessible via various trails. Though these aren't made of concrete, they are made of hard-packed sand. There is a tiny bump to get onto the path, but it's extremely small. The sand may be a little bumpy, but definitely is not jarring. There are trees on either side of the path. My power wheelchair is on the left side of the picture. It has a white frame. The front tires are on the hard-packed sand, while the rear tires are on the concrete.
Here, you can see myself and my entire wheelchair. I'm driving on the hard-packed sand, which I mentioned in the previous picture. Grass and palm trees are on my right, while dense trees are to my left.
In this shot, I'm exiting one of the wooden paths and entering one made of hard-packed sand. All of my tires are still on the wood, but the front casters of my wheelchair are poised on the edge. There is a very slight dip, which is barely noticeable.
To enter and exit the park, you'll need to go through a lobby that houses a gift shop, as well as some restrooms. There's a koi pond to the left of the exit. There is a shirt rack, filled with hanging shirts, outside of the gift shop. Both entrances (or exits) are equipped with power doors, which can be operated by large buttons.
In this shot, I'm in the aforementioned lobby, standing in front of the bathroom doors. They are push-to-enter, but must be pulled to exit. If either of these actions are difficult for you to perform on your own, it may be best to ask for assistance.

Author & Producer:
Kyle Romano

Luis Rodriguez

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