What about to go to the beach?
I was born in a beach city in Brazil. In the summer everything seems to revolve around activity on the beach – socializing, barbecues and sport. I love going to the beach. There is, however, an additional factor to consider.
I have been a wheelchair user for twenty years. Wheelchairs and sand do not mix. Sometimes the sand is stones. What about go for a push there?
It means that I have been 20 years going to the beach with some kind of challenge. It is fact that when I go to the beach I need to have some help. This is frustrating as I lose my independence and spontaneity.
However, because I love the sea and I really don’t care what others will think, I just jump on the floor and crawl across the sand using my hands and pull myself, using the waves to help me, in to get in and out of the water. On holiday I was once described as a mermaid when accessing the sea in this manner.
Sometimes someone carries me into the water. The person needs to be strong and sometimes the sea is too rough. The fact you are in bikini is something that does not help. When somebody takes you in they arms the ones are around can see your backside very well what is very embarrassing.
Also you can’t go to the beach on your own, we need friends or family to be around. We can’t push in the sand. Going to the beach therefore requires planning. It is not as straightforward as going to the shops, restaurant or the cinema when they are accessible. Beaches are about socialising and wheelchair users would like to choose exactly when and how we do that independently and not rely on others.
Also accessible toilets are required. How can you spend all day on the beach and not to go on the toilet at once?
Beach wheelchairs are welcome and the provision needs to be thought through. The chairs need to be there at all times to allow spontaneity. In Portugal I went at the end of September and the chairs were not available because it was not high season and they were being maintained. A rotation policy might have been the answer.
It is nice that this situation is changing; now more and more beaches have wheelchair friendly facilities. In Brazil because of the Games in 2016 and the World Cup 2014 is has been an issue due the visibility that the country is having through international eyes. As the economy is growing the attitude and viability of these kind of resources are improving.
Also it is very important to remember it is not only the sea where we want to go but socialising with friends is necessary and for this to happen we need to cross the sand as I said before. A footpath is a big step for it to be possible.
I have been to a few beaches where it was possible and it was the best experience ever. Turkey and Portugal are some of these places.
Doing the same things that people without disability do is the goal for a better life. We want to have the feeling that being on the beach is as simple as for those who don’t have a disability. No one should take away the feeling and the pleasure of having a normal social life.
We are looking for providers that think and plan to improve the basic needs of our daily routine and leisure time. Being able to accomplish something as simple as spending quality time at the beach would be easier by having wheelchairs that allow us use at the beach and also special toilets. These little things would inspire those aren’t brave enough to face all the troubles that we find at the beach. Considering the fact that I really like the beach, I am sure there are more disabled people who enjoy outdoor activities like parks, playgrounds, lakes, paths in the middle of the trees and so much more. What else should the providers improve?
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