Summer is officially over, but that doesn’t mean your beach days are. With the right planning and the best motorized wheelchair, people with disabilities can enjoy the beach year-round in places where the weather — and the facilities — are accommodating.
The website Mic.com delved into what makes a beach day possible for people with disabilities and found that there are many places in the United States that make fun in the sun and sand less of a hassle for people who use wheelchairs to get around.
The United States Access Board requires that recreation and outdoor areas have at least one “firm and stable” access route surface that is wide enough for a wheelchair. But Stefan Honisch, a researcher and wheelchair user in British Columbia, Canada, told Mic it’s not just a question of whether a beach is accessible.
It’s also important to have a beach-accessible bus stop nearby as well as wheelchair-accessible restrooms.
Also important is whether it’s easy to actually get near the water, like whether there’s a path for wheelchairs that extends to the shoreline.
Another nice feature is having large-wheel beach wheelchairs available for rental, ideally motorized wheelchairs so the user can control it by him or herself.
Parking can be an issue, as sometimes the availability of handicapped parking is unpredictable, and sometimes someone who does not have a disability but is eager to get to the beach takes the handicapped spot if it’s the only one open.
Mic recommends Playa Luquillo, located 30 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a beach that features an accessible ramp to the edge of the water as well as handicapped accessible bathrooms and change rooms. Grommet Island Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has 15,000 square feet of oceanfront playground that’s designed for people with physical, visual and cognitive disabilities. The playground offers beach wheelchair rentals free of charge.
The article said while there is no universal source for determining whether public beaches in America are accessible, the National Park Service website lists accessibility information at the “Plan Your Visit” tab, and a good way to find out if a beach has wheelchair-friendly features and amenities is to contact the parks and recreation department of the city you’re visiting.