Gardening is generally considered by many to be a therapeutic endeavor. But for those with physical or mental challenges, it can be even more important for enjoyment and good health. If you're considering making your garden more accessible to everyone, here are 5 of the most important tips to keep in mind. 

Invite Use. Start your landscaping makeover by thinking like all its future users. What is already in place that disabled family members love? What might they find overwhelming? Is your yard filled with slopes, trees, narrow spots, or other uninviting aspects? Thinking about the big picture will help you formulate a cohesive accessibility plan. Keep in mind the interests, needs, and abilities of any disabled users so that you can create a space that they will personally find appealing. If you're unfamiliar with disabled access designs, it may be good to work with a qualified landscape designer for this stage of the process. 

Evaluate Paths. Make sure your yard's pathways are easy for everyone to use. If your yard is used by someone in a wheelchair, for example, avoid tight corners, sharp turns, or elevation changes. Accessible paths should also often be wide enough that 2 or 3 people can walk side-by-side along them. Use a firm but attractive pathway material such as stamped concrete, brick, pavers, flagstone, or wood. In addition, ensure that adequate lighting covers the entire path — perhaps utilizing different lights, such as stake lighting and spotlights. 

Raise Beds. A garden tinkerer who has mobility problems can still enjoy working in the outdoors with a little extra effort in the design. Rather than place some garden beds on the ground, raise them up using containers and garden boxes. You can hang flower boxes on or over porch or deck railings or on fences. In addition, you can often find stand-alone garden containers that are high enough to be comfortably worked on while sitting or standing. Even just adding a retaining wall or berm can give a disabled family member the ability to garden at a convenient height. 

Engage Senses. In addition to ensuring that the garden looks nice for all users, add accessories and plants that engage their other senses. This can be especially important for aging family members or those with emotional difficulties. Bubbling fountains, for example, can be soothing for anxiety and depression. Choose flowers with a strong scent, such as lilac or lemon verbena, to add olfactory appeal. Add in plants and trees with interesting texture variety as well. 

Get the Right Tools. Encourage disabled users (and the rest of the family) to garden to their hearts' delight by having good tools available. This could include specially-designed trowels or pruners, tools with a longer reach, long-handled weed removers or arthritis-friendly hand tools. In addition, look for ways to make getting around easier, such as installing ramps to get into and out of sheds or to reach storage spaces.

By planning ahead and designing your garden area around the needs of disabled or elderly family members, you can create a yard that will bring everyone in the household years of joy in the future.