Northumberland has some amazingly beautiful beaches, and designer Phil Pugh has been working hard to help disabled wheelchair users have access to the local beaches where they may have had difficulty before.
Working closely with Northumberland County Council and Active Northumberland, Mr Pugh has been looking at specially adapted makes and models of wheelchairs that can move across sand. His project has enabled a local Northumberland boy to experience the joys of the beach for the first time in many years.
Harry Purdy, aged 10, helped to test out the new designs, and his mum Debra, commented in a press interview that she thought the chairs were fantastic. She has not been able to take Harry to the sea front since he was 3 years old.
Debra added: “I would use the chairs regularly and I imagine a lot of other parents would too. I hope the trials continue and the new models are available soon.”
The team, working on Blyth beach, tested out the Tundra model, which is designed to take standard manual wheelchairs, and also the Desert model, which is still in the design stages, should eventually be able to take a whole range of designs.
Trials are still ongoing, and are part of a county wide scheme to help more wheelchair users access the local beaches in the area. It is hoped that feedback from the trials can be put forward during a meeting in October with councilors and Active Northumberland to explore the funding potential to provide beach wheelchairs locally.
You may be surprised to learn that there already are specially adapted wheelchairs made by by some wheelchair manufacturers, and many beach wheelchairs are in use in popular holiday destinations across the world.
Being physically disabled doesn’t mean that you should be deprived of a quality lifestyle, or not to be able to go where you please. So if you love the beach but feel it would be impossible to enjoy it because of your wheelchair, then this will be great news to you!
If you live by the sea, or like to visit the beach regularly, there are some models of beach wheelchairs that have become more affordable recently, and can be an appealing investment if you are going to get good use from it.
Just like with standard wheelchairs, you can get beach wheelchairs in either manual or electric versions. The manual versions are operated by the user, and the electric versions are controlled by either buttons or a joystick.
When you choose to buy a beach wheelchair, you can have it customised to suit your needs, in just the same way as you would with any other sort of wheelchair. So you can choose your favourite colour, upholstery design etc.
Most beach wheelchairs feature sling style seats to ensure a comfortable ride. Some even allow you to attach a sun parasol to the frame so you can enjoy a sunny beach without the risk of sun burn.
Beach wheelchairs are quite flexible because although they have been specifically designed for the beach, you can use them elsewhere too, so a great idea for a beach holiday where you may not want to keep switching chairs each time you leave the beach.
With the UK having more than 1,200 beaches, having the use of a beach wheelchair means that more of the coastline can now be opened up to the disabled, and taking a UK beach holiday is no longer as restrictive as it was before.
It is worth checking if a holiday destination have a beach wheelchair available. So far there is no definitive list of places that do have one, and of the 102 Blue Flag beaches, around 90% are wheelchair accessible, but less than 50% of these actually provide a beach wheelchair for public use.