2023 – Central District All Faculty Symposium – Horticulture, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, Florida Friendly Landscaping™
C. Chairez, UF/IFAS Extension, Orange County, Orlando, FL and E. Pabon, UF/IFAS Extension, Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL.
Situation: The Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) training program is designed for able-bodied residents and is limited in accessibility. The traditional structure of the MGV training consists of 75+ classroom hours in a multi-media-based lecture format. The corresponding student manual that all MGV trainees utilize is a 3-inch binder. During the Summer 2022 Orange County MGV recruitment season, a resident with a visual impairment applied for the program. His community spirit made him the perfect candidate for the MGV program. However, the inaccessibility of the training model raised awareness to the equitable modifications required for this candidate to be successful.
Methods: To substitute the hard copy of the student manual we received a flash drive of the PDF files. As is, the PDFs were not screen-reader compliant. Using Adobe Acrobat, the text was exported to a word document and re-formatted to be read with a screen reader. During the training, all handouts were printed at 2x size and e-mailed to him to be read aloud with his electronic reading device and screen reader. The Landscape Design class, which traditionally used 2-D paper cutouts, was modified to utilize 3-D materials (pipe cleaners, pom-pom balls, 3-D stickers, popsicle sticks, etc.) for the trainee to design a tactile landscape.
Results: The MGV trainee with a visual impairment completed the training and is now working on their initial 75 volunteer hours. They have collaborated with the Seminole County MGV program to co-lead a therapeutic horticulture initiative called Seeds of Inclusion- an innovative program that brings people with diverse abilities together in a shared love for nature, gardening and environmental stewardship.
Conclusion: As an Equal Opportunity Institution it is critical that we make strides towards an inclusive teaching model for not just the MGV training, but all educational deliveries.