For over 40 years, the Cook Organic Garden (COG) at Rutgers has provided faculty, staff, students, alumni, and members of surrounding communities with opportunities to garden in over 86,000 square feet of cultivated space on the New Brunswick campus. The garden community at 178 Jones Avenue is another Rutgers hot spot for gardeners on Cook Campus.
Historically, none of the space has been designated or designed specifically as universally accessible for people with disabilities (PWD). The establishment of a Rutgers Universal Access Garden Pilot serves as a space to afford people with disabilities health and social benefits and as a site for socioenvironmental research.
With this pilot garden, money should be raised to build a larger Universally Accessible Garden. Landscape Architecture students under the guidance of Associate Professor Richard Alomar have worked in the Spring 2022 Praxis Studio on designs and furniture prototypes for this new space. They have been presented on Rutgers Day 2022.
As with all AIR initiatives, this project involves inter-departmental and cross-school collaboration while providing students with experience-based education and interdisciplinary networking opportunities.
In the course of this project, students learned about Universal Design and how to apply it to a garden design. Universal Design is the process of creating an environment that is as accessible, understandable, and usable for all people—regardless of their age, size, aptitude, ability, or disability. Every person who wants to use an area should have their needs taken into consideration within a design or a service provided inside that environment. Universal Design is much more than just a new design trend and it also benefits more people than older people or people with disabilities.Download Universal Design Process Principles and Applications (PDF)
The Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology Center DO-IT has published seven major principles for Universal Design defined by Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.
Richard Alomar and students of the Spring 2022 Praxis Studio at the Department of Landscape Architecture • Meredith Taylor (Rutgers School of Biological and Environmental Sciences) • Javier Robles, Rose Greenblatt (Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences) • AIR Collaborative (Julia M. Ritter, Anette Freytag)
Fundraising will start with the completion of the pilot project in Spring 2023
Impact:The findings of this project shall inform best practices for increasing accessibility of Rutgers’ natural resources for people with disabilities and fostering a sense of belonging and autonomy for participants. By creating this pilot of an accessible garden at 178 Jones Avenue in New Brunswick, we will assess the benefits of universal design and how reasonable modifications transform gardening into an activity for everyone regardless of age and ability.
Photography: Julia Ritter