The different world of the blind

Prague Mayor Pavel Bém tried out the newly opened trail for the blind for himself, with a scarf over his eyes and a guide-dog named Karel. He was assisted by Councillor Milan Pešák, who is himself blind and manages to orientate himself much better. Afterwards they both visited a tactile display where they could touch and feel various natural objects and living animals as well as stuffed exhibits. “I had the feeling I was walking through a maze,” said Bém when he came out of the square room with a guide and removed the blindfold from his eyes. “Of the twenty objects I had in my hands, I confidently recognised a cork and two or three other things, the rest were a mystery to me.”

The trail will be further improved

At present the trail consists of thirty wooden posts with information for sighted and blind people. In certain places visually handicapped visitors can also feel the plants, mostly trees. The Botanical Garden is also preparing to issue orientation maps for the blind and to improve the posts, making them easier to find. This will also include acoustic guidance.

Tactile exhibitions a part of the garden

Prague Botanical Garden has a collection of natural objects which form the basis of tactile exhibitions. Until 18th April blind and sighted visitors can take advantage of an exhibition entitled “Co nosí na sobě” (What they wear) and can feel, for example, snake skin, stones, various types of tree trunk, stuffed exhibits and living lizards. Another exhibition is being prepared, and there is a growing collection of tactile objects that blind people can handle. The Botanical Garden has already put on 14 tactile exhibitions. The service of guides is available for the duration of the exhibition (permanently present). Reservations must be made in advance for large groups: Tel. 603 582 191 or at pruvodci@botanicka.cz.

City for the blind

For a long time Prague has been offering blind people a wide range of ways to integrate with the life of the city. Prague City Museum has a small tactile exhibition, Prague brought out a tactile atlas of the most important architectural monuments in the city centre, Prague Zoo also offers a tactile exhibition. “However, the key to life in the city for blind people is safety,” Pavel Bém points out. “We have managed to create such conditions that visually handicapped people can comfortably travel by public transport and cross junctions thanks to acoustic signals. We support the training of guide-dogs, thanks to which blind people can walk the streets in safety. All this is an infrastructural basis, thanks to which some kind of superstructure can follow, such as the trail for blind people in the Botanical Garden.”

Also disabled access

The City supports not only a system for blind people, but also financially supports disabled access to the Botanical Garden. “With money from the City we have bought a wheelchair, we received another as a sponsor’s gift from the MEYRA company. One serves in the Fata Morgana greenhouse, the other for the outdoor exhibition,” said Oldřich Vacek, Director of the Garden. In the Botanical Garden we are aware that “handicapped” means not only people in wheelchairs, but also, for example, mothers with prams, and therefore the greater part of the Garden is accessible to everyone.