The Joys of Walking in the Woods…Alone
Jerry Berrier, who works at Perkins School for the Blind, is an Access Technology Consultant and a birder. He has helped develop Mass Audubon’s 11 All Person’s Trails, producing the audio tours and helping design trail experiences and materials.
I have always liked walking in the woods. As a child I attended summer camp, and as an adult I have often enjoyed strolling with a close friend or relative, taking in the smells and the texture of the ground under my feet, feeling the sun on my face, and listening to the wonderful sounds of birds.
Yet as a person who is totally blind, I found few opportunities to be alone in nature. That is, until Mass Audubon came along. With the creation of their universally accessible All Person’s rope-guided trails, I can be alone and experience nature in an entirely new way.
Sharing What We've Learned
With support from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, Mass Audubon created a comprehensive guidelines manual for developing and sustaining accessible All Persons trails and associated visitor materials to be used by a wide variety of people with a full range of functional abilities. The manual was made available to the public for free in 2016.
Just as a driver learns a new route more quickly when he or she is driving, I take in more about my surroundings when I walk alone with my cane. No matter how many times I travel the same path with a sighted guide, I cannot learn it well, and I do not experience it fully until I walk it on my own.
When I walk by myself on one of Mass Audubon’s All Persons trails, I hear more, feel more, and take in more with all of my senses. I go at my own speed, stopping when I want to, standing quietly for as long as I choose, and taking in the beauty of nature in my own unique way. The addition of signage with braille, explaining my surroundings, only adds to my experience.
Thanks to Mass Audubon, I am free to relish the beauty of nature, daydream, contemplate, or think of nothing if I so choose. For me, it is always a wonderful and liberating experience to spend time alone, truly alone and independent, in nature.