Safe and easy tool use for the visually impaired gardener

Last Updated: 
February 19, 2003

CORVALLIS - Try to imagine using garden tools out in the garden and yard if you couldn't see well.

If you know someone whose sight is impaired, there are several easy ways to make using garden tools easier and more pleasurable for them, explained Jan McNeilan, consumer horticulturist for the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Long handled tools, such as rakes, forks and spades are best for preparing the garden before planting with limited eyesight, explained McNeilan. Tools with short handles (8 to 30 inches) are better for planting and weeding because they allow the gardener to touch and cultivate at the same time.

McNeilan recommended the following hints for tool use for the visually impaired gardener:



  • Use one-handed shears for pruning. They leave one hand free to feel the plant. Make sure you keep fingers out of the way.

  • Paint tool handles a light color to contrast with the soil. Color contrast can also be used for containers, pathways fences, gate latches, table edges in the greenhouse, steps and other things the gardener might have trouble finding or noticing.
  • Keep tools in a bucket or gardener's apron. Place weeds in one bucket and garden debris in another. Then store tools on a pegboard with outlines that show where each tool belongs. It helps to find the tools as well as put them away.
  • Knee pads are helpful, since much of the work will be done while kneeling.
  • A sturdy kneeling stool painted a light color can also assist the gardener.
  • A wheelbarrow or garden cart with two wheels and a resting leg that can be moved with one arm is ideal for visually impaired gardeners. It is more stable than a regular single-wheeled, double handled wheelbarrow. A portable radio attached to the wheelbarrow makes it easier to locate.
  • A cordless or cell phone allows the gardener to have security and freedom at the same time.
  • Always keep paths clear of tools and hoses.
Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Jan McNeilan