If you have ever tried pushing a wheelchair on a beach you will know that it’s an almost impossible task. The small narrow wheels mean that as soon as you hit the sand you start sinking and without a Herculean effort you will get nowhere fast.
So for years wheelchair users have had to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else enjoying the beach rather than being able to go and enjoy it themselves.
However, beaches are no longer no man’s land for wheelchair users, all thanks to beach wheelchairs!
Beach wheelchairs have huge tyres which are able to roll over the sand with ease without sinking. Unfortunately there are only a handful of places around the UK that offer these wheelchairs.
I was delighted to discover that one such place is Thanet in Kent, where I went to visit my family last week. There are a number of popular seaside resorts in Thanet such as Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate with lots of picturesque blue flag beaches.
A fantastic charity based in Thanet called Beach Within Reach has 15 beach
wheelchairs covering 7 beaches. Plus there is even a mobile hoist available at one of them.
A lot of wheelchair users can’t transfer into the beach chairs without a hoist, but in my experience this essential piece of equipment is often overlooked. So it’s great to see that Beach Within Reach understand it’s importance and have managed to get one.
What’s more all the equipment is FREE to hire, but booking is recommended.
I visited Minnis Bay to use the beach wheelchair as it is where the hoist is located. There is a long ramp that goes down to the beach here so it’s easy to get onto the sand once you are in the beach chair.
The chairs are stored in the bay inspectors’ hut and we just went along to ask if we could use it, even though we hadn’t booked. The bay inspector was very helpful and let us use the chair anyway.
The sea was beautifully calm (just a little bit cold) the day I visited, and the weather was sunny and warm – perfect for a trip to the beach!
It was a novel and awesome experience being wheeled out across the wet sand, as normally this is a completely alien environment for a wheelchair.
I went out quite a long way as the tide was out at the time and the water was gently lapping at my feet. I couldn’t believe how calm and peaceful the sea was.
The chairs in question are called “De Bug” all-terrain chairs and the charity recently bought them from a company in Florida which makes them.
The chairs are comfortable to sit in and they have a fully adjustable footplate and removable armrests. The rear wheels rotate 360° which makes it very manoeuvrable. The rear suspension tilts when covering uneven ground, which helps keep the chair stable. So it’s a very smooth and comfortable ride.
I went on a different type of beach chair for the first time ever in Tenerife, but I have never been on one in this country before. I was only allowed on the chair for 15 minutes at a time in Tenerife. But there were no such restrictions on the ones in Kent, which is great if you want to lounge around on the beach for a few hours.
There are a number of places around the UK that offer beach wheelchairs, but they are few and far between. Have a look at this page for more information about where beach wheelchairs may be available. Strangely it doesn’t list Thanet on the page, which is a gap I hope this blog can plug.
Personally I can’t speak highly enough of Beach within Reach! Walking on a beach is an experience that most people probably take for granted. But for wheelchair users who often don’t get the opportunity to go in the sea it is exhilarating.
Thanks to Beach Within Reach Thanet’s beaches are some of the most accessible in the country and in the near future I’m sure even more beach chairs and hoists will be available in the area.
However, the charity relies on donations and fundraising to be able to purchase and maintain the equipment.
The charity has running costs of £4000 every year, so every donation is welcome and goes directly to the charity, as it is all run by volunteers.
If you would like to donate to this excellent charity and help them to keep breaking down barriers for disabled people please visit their donation page.
I highly encourage you to visit Thanet so you can experience the beautiful beaches and the beach chairs for yourself.