Braille Trail at Sante Fe Computer Magnet Middle School Watershed Discovery Campus

Amigos de Los Rios – Emerald Necklace Group collaborated with the Monrovia Unified School District, the Hearts for Sight Foundation and Tom Reilly, retired Parks Director for City of Santa Clarita, to develop a set of braille/tactile interpretive signage elements to highlight major school greening improvements that have been completed at the Santa Fe Computer Science Magnet School Nature. This work was made possible through grant funding from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) – and specifically their 2022 ‘Driving Mobility and Accessibility on Public Lands Grant’.

Our goal was to work with community stakeholders and a unique design firm speculating in universal access signage called ‘Touch Graphics’ to prototype a set of interpretive braille and tactile signs, featuring Emerald Necklace Natural Infrastructure Network History and Context within East Los Angeles County. These tactile Signs show the Santa Fe school’s location within the LA Basin and ‘Our Greater Watershed’, five tactile braille panels highlight Native Habitat and Biodiversity, including Birds, Native Plants, and Butterflies, and one sign depicts the cross section of a Bioswale. These signs are highlights of a modest nature path located in front of the school and continuing as a loop on campus. The signs are within a publicly accessible joint-use area along school frontage and are repeated within the school campus to provide a welcome and safe access to visually impaired students, school community members and visitors.

With critical guidance and support from NEEF specialist Cynthia Burkhour, the project included improvements to the way we install sign frames at schools parks and trails throughout the Emerald Necklace Network and many other tips on amenity selection and installation. We now ensure a consistent 30” clearance for wheelchair access and a 48” x36” hardscape surface below the sign to uphold universal accessibility standards. We also learned about the importance of maintaining pathways clear of vegetation both at the level of ground and relative to higher tree branches. The Nature Path at Santa Fe is a pilot project and provides a template for Emerald Necklace future projects to serve visitors more inclusively. We have already deployed signage at a sister school within the Pasadena Unified School District.

This project is a watershed moment for Amigos, thanks to NEEF we have significant step in providing more inclusive signage to community members throughout the communities served by the Emerald Necklace. We are committed to improving access to Nature for All. We have much more work to do before we can make the dream of braille accessible trails a reality for visually impaired visitors throughout the Los Angeles region. We are very grateful to our Hearts for Sight and School Community Partners.

Due to visual limitations and lack of universal design modalities, we do not
often see blind and visually impaired people enjoying outdoor spaces. But through our
partnership with Amigos de los Rios, perhaps this will change since together we are planning to
build the first Braille Trails here in Los Angeles. Joseph Burton, President Hearts for Sight Foundation

Check the braille/tactile signs below and read more about the Emerald Necklace Santa Fe Computer Science Magnet School Universal Access Nature Path and other signage projects developed by Amigos de Los Rios in cooperation with our community here: https://amigosdelosrios.org/signage-projects/

TACTILE AND BRAILLE SIGNS

24 x 36″ Our Greater Watershed Tactile Sign with Braille.

24 x 36″ Native Plants of Santa Fe Magnet School Tactile Sign with Braille.

24 x 36″ Butterflies of the San Gabriel Valley Tactile Sign with Braille.

24 x 36″ Birds of the San Gabriel Valley Tactile Sign with Braille.

24 x 36″ Bioswales: Capture Water Tactile Sign with Braille.

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