First Step team removes barriers in community gardens for people with disabilities

A little hill. A community garden at Lutheran Community Services in Northwest Wilmington is perched on a little hill. It’s not much of a hill when you stand in front of it, but for someone in a wheelchair, it’s enough to keep them out of the garden.

After talking to community members, Spencer Hoernes, a student in the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, decided to investigate.

He discovered that 25 percent of people with a physical or visual disability live in poverty. This garden is located in the highest disabilities and food insecurity rates in Wilmington, so improvements would mean garden new community members could finally take part.

“After discussing my thoughts with Lutheran Community Services, we agreed that the garden needed wheelchair access,” said Hoernes. “I’m very interested in learning how gardening would impact the quality of life of a person with disabilities.”

So he created Green Inclusion to take on the challenge of converting the local plot into a disability-friendly garden.

Hoernes, a food science major, entered his team into First Step Grand Challenges, a UD competition that invites undergraduate students across disciplines to identify societal and environmental challenges. After identifying a problem, students are charged with developing novel solutions. Read more.