How to Plan an Unforgettable Accessible Beach Adventure
From the sand and sunshine to the salty air and sea-breeze, there's a lot to love about hanging out at the beach. Not only are there many fun activities to involve yourself in at the beach, but there are health benefits as well, both mental and physical. Research has shown that time in nature improves one's overall well-being.
Looking to get out on the beach? We've put together this handy Q&A to get you started.
Do I need a special beach wheelchair?
That all depends on what you want to do at the beach! If you are using a standard wheelchair or other mobility aid, many beaches feature accessible boardwalks. These allow you to enjoy the view or even fish off the pier. Some beaches are starting to offer paved ramps or rubber mats that allow an individual with a mobility impairment to get right down to the water's edge. However, if you are looking to leave your own tracks in the sand, and have difficulty walking, a beach chair is a good solution for you. Some beach areas even have beach wheelchairs available for rental. However, they are often only available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Are there walking aids for the beach, or will I need to use a beach chair to get around?
There are beach crutches, beach walkers, and beach canes! Similar to the beach wheelchairs, you can find walkers that have large balloon tires. Some even feature a seat (like a rollator) so you can easily take a break to relax enjoy the beauty of the beach. Some crutches offer different tips that allow you to have more stability and mobility on soft sand. For canes, there are some universal tips out there that you can add to most standard canes.
I've seen some wheelchairs for the beach and they always have huge tires. Why are the tires so big?
Most things have a tendency to sink in sand. Large (balloon) tires spread out the weight, helping the chair and rider float on the surface of the sand.
Is it possible to propel myself independently in those chairs?
Most beach wheelchairs can't be pushed by the rider, however, there are a few options that will allow you to go where they want without assistance. Manual chairs such as the GRIT Freedom Chair can be pushed on sand, and there are also motorized options.
What other accessibility features are available at a beach?
- Boardwalks: Permanent boardwalks aren't just for browsing shops. Some beaches have created boardwalks that wind among the sand dunes of the beach and even take you right to the waters edge! Do a little research about the beaches you want to visit to see if you'll be able to enjoy this features. The National Park Service has a great list to get you started.
- Rubber mats to the water: companies like Mobi are making it easier and more cost effective for beach areas to open their terrain to users of all abilities
- Showers: While it's fun to get covered in sand and salt water, you may not want to take that back with you to your car or your hotel. Many beaches offer an outdoor rinse station for beach goers. Some may offer a fold down bench for those who need it to sit and rinse, but if not, you can simply place any folding beach chair below the water to enjoy a quick rinse.
- Bathrooms: If your beach adventure is an all day affair, it may be important to find out about the bathrooms that are available near the beach. If you need space for your wheelchair in the bathroom, find out if they have an accessible stall, or where the nearest one is to where you will be. Planning ahead will take a lot of stress out of the equation when nature calls!
- Parking: If you require accessible parking, many beaches have very convenient parking for those with a valid permit! This will allow you to unload easier and get to your beach adventure even faster!
- In California? The CA State Park system has a great list of accessible features.
I don't live near an ocean. How can I take advantage of the beach?
There are many fabulous lakes around the country that have beautiful beach opportunities. Click here for ideas. Many rivers also have sections that are beach quality. Check out this list of river beaches.
What activities can I do at the beach?
There are so many! Here's a few to get you started:
- Sitting Volleyball
- Build sandcastles
- Surfing/boogie boarding
- Look for sea shells and little critters (make beach art)
- Fly a kite
- And of course, relax
Want more tips about accessible beach adventures?
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