Patricia and her longtime caregiver, Sharon,
at the Accessible Garden at Brookfield Farm, Amherst, MA.
It started with a simple need and a desire -- to be able to go together to the farm with our daughter, Patricia, and for her to have the opportunity to explore the farm as other children did.
Brookfield Farm in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA, is a truly lovely place and is beloved by many in the community (I'll talk more about Brookfield Farm in a later post). It is a Community Supported Agriculture farm that our family was eager to join when we first moved to Amherst. But it was, as most farms are, largely inaccessible to someone who uses a wheelchair or has any physical or mobility impairment.
I'm Theresa Vincent, mother of Patricia, who was the inspiration for The Accessible Garden at Brookfield Farm. I am not here with any professional expertise in gardening or accessible design and planning. I’m a parent, and a member of a local community, and I’m here because I want to join with others who are interested in making our communities more accessible and welcoming for our children with disabilities, our families, and for all.
|Theresa & Patricia, FCSN Conference, Boston, MA. Feb. 2005|
She was born with cerebral palsy and a long list of what I call –“the words you learn to live with” – dysgenesis of the corpus callossum, grand mal and petit mal seizures, spastic quadriplegia, blindness, deafness, scoliosis, risk of aspiration, etc. But Patricia taught us, and we learned that this list alone would not define her.
|Patricia and family enjoying the beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island. P is using a beach wheelchair that was free for public use at the beach. Thanks, Rhode Island!|
Patricia passed away in 2008. I would give anything for her to be here, showing you the accessible garden that she helped build. But perhaps she is in a way… What I do know is that we want to continue what she helped create -- that this small, simple garden that was built not only in response to her needs, but in the spirit of what she opened our eyes to – that a world that was open and welcoming to all is a world that benefits each and all of us. This idea, in the form of a garden for everyone is something that we would like to see grow and bloom in as many places as possible…
|Community gathering for opening of the Accessible Garden|