Updated: Apr 3, 2021
Vegetables are great, but they are only one of the benefits of gardening
By Spencer van Vloten
The Disabled Independent Gardeners Association (DIGA) connects persons with disabilities to accessible gardening opportunities and equipment, helping to build inclusive communities in which everyone can participate.
Entering The Garden
In possession of accessible plots at community gardens around the Lower Mainland, DIGA helps disabled persons overcome barriers to gardening, regardless of what their disability is or why they want to garden. Drop-in gardening sessions, community garden parties, workshops, and instructional videos are just some of the ways DIGA accomplishes this.
To ensure that gardening is accessible to all its members, DIGA's plots feature automatic irrigation, as well as raised gardening beds so that gardeners with mobility limitations are able to reach the soil. Disabled gardeners are also supported by a team of volunteers, who are available to provide 1-to-1 assistance when requested.
DIGA members benefit from customized adaptive tools made by ConnecTra Society, a sister organization within the Disability Foundation. Common features of these tools include extended reaches, as well as grips made specifically for persons with difficulty grasping standard gardening equipment.
3 DIGA pillars: gardeners, volunteers, and adaptations
Reaping The Rewards
While gardening has many benefits, DIGA's Michelle Wood focuses on the social aspect that it brings to persons with disabilities.
"I think the biggest thing we see is the connectedness that community gardening offers. Many disabled persons feel like world isn’t made for them, and this creates a sense of isolation and exclusion. But DIGA's gardening programs involve working together, and in the way that works for each person".
Many disabled persons feel like world isn’t made for them.....but DIGA's gardening programs involve working together, and in the way that works for each person
Another benefit is the sense of accomplishment - not to mention some hearty veggies.
"Our gardeners can grow their own food in these community gardening plots: lettuce, carrots, potatoes, or really anything they want".
"Not only are these healthy foods that are usually more expensive to buy from a store, it's satisfying to know that you're the one who grew it and to see your creations develop and your efforts rewarded".
For Michelle, the impact of gardening has been personal.
"I have a disability myself, and find gardening to be a very positive and rewarding outlet that's really helped with my mental health".
Gardening brings a range of social, psychological, and health benefits to persons with disabilities
Gardening Here, There, and Everywhere
While many programs have been interrupted by the pandemic, community gardens were declared essential, which allowed DIGA to continue offering certain in-person gardening opportunities to persons with disabilities, along with their 'grow-able" virtual workshops for persons more comfortable at home.
Recognizing the need to support gardeners like these in their own homes, DIGA is working on the Home Gardening program, in which disabled gardeners receive assistance and resources to help them flourish as gardeners on their patios, decks, living rooms--or all of the above.
As part of this program, development of a mobile, self-watering planter is currently underway. Volunteers from Tetra Society, another organization within the Disability Foundation network, are helping to design the device.
"With this device you don’t have to water plants nearly as often, only about once every 2 weeks, which is essential for persons with disabilities, who often have more limited energy to work with", says Wood.
Currently 5 of these planters are being created, with the goal to launch and make them public in 2022, producing enough so that every DIGA member eventually has one available to them.
Although more details for the device are still be confirmed, one thing is for sure: wherever and however you want to garden, DIGA will be there to help.
To learn more about DIGA and their programs, visit www.digabc.org or contact Michelle Wood at email@example.com
Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BC Disability. To get in touch, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!