I live 15 minutes from the beach, where the sun shines around the year, and accessibility for wheelchairs is provided. That’s good news for people with disabilities, like me with multiple sclerosis, and other wheelchair users.
The majority of Spanish beaches facing the Mediterranean have permanent wooden pathways across the sand. And they culminate in a cross-piece parallel to, but yards from, the water’s high tide level. This seems like most beaches that provide access for chairs without the special wide tyres that can handle sand.
I was reading about a campaign in the USA to make sure beaches there become accessible. The article was written by a former colleague of mine, Ed Tobias, and published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today. In his MS Wire column, Ed wrote:
Beach Days for All
So, I want to applaud some people who live along the New Jersey shore and who launched a campaign called “Beach Days for All.” One of them is Jessica Krill. Jessica was born and raised in Seaside Park, New Jersey. She knows about beach access problems because she’s the mother of two special-needs children.
Jessica and her friend, Chris Aldrich, put together a Facebook page promoting their access campaign. They also reached out to Seaside Park’s government officials, spoke before the Borough Council, and enlisted the support of Justin Auciello, the creator of the website and Facebook page “Jersey Shore Hurricane News,” to help find a way to make their beach more accessible.
That “way” turned out to be using temporary, hard plastic mats, similar to those that cover the grass and dirt at sports stadiums during special events, such as concerts. The mats formed a path from the dunes to the water and they came as a donation from Matrax, the company that supplies mats to Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. Its chief operating officer, Joe Wright, made the offer after seeing the “Beach Days for All” Facebook page. They were put down on Seaside Park’s F Street beach in mid-August.
Wheelchairs have access to beach but not to the water
But those pathways are only good for access to the beach. They fall woefully short, quite literally, of satisfying anyone wanting to dip their feet in the water. And that’s a problem on both sides of the Atlantic. US beach paths appear from the pictures to be of a similar design as here in Spain.
And that should change. It really is time for accessibility for wheelchair users to thought of in terms of the sea itself, not just the beach.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.