Disability
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Beach wheelchairs on Northumberland coast open up seaside to people with disabilities

Disabled Housing

Written By: Will Metcalfe  20/9/15

Designer Phil Pugh has been working with Northumberland County Council to help make beaches more accessible to the disabled

Specially adapted wheelchairs helped a Northumberland lad access the beach for the first time in years.

A series of tests have been taking place at South Beach, in Blyth, this week trialing models to help manual and electric wheelchairs run on sand.

The Tundra model is designed to take standard manual wheelchairs, while the Desert model is more of a prototype that will eventually be capable of taking a larger range of designs which do not have a structural bar from front to rear axle along each side.

It is part of an ongoing scheme to help more people access the beaches in the county.

Debra Purdy, from Seaton Delaval, mum of Harry, aged 10, who was trying out the new designs, said: “The chairs are fantastic.

“This is the first time I have been able to take my son down on to the sand and to the water’s edge since he was three.

“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 organisers are keen to take the pilot project further and are meeting with councillors and Active Northumberland in October to review feedback from the tests and explore funding potential.

Along with scores of wheelchair users, North East Paralympian Stephen Miller also dropped in on the test.

He said: “It’s impossible to access a beach using a wheelchair but these innovations could open up the joy of the seaside and Northumberland coastline to so many people.”

It is hoped following the tests that the cars will help more people access Northumberland’s award-winning beaches.

Coun Val Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at Northumberland County Council, said: “The beach wheelchairs are a fantastic idea and I really hope the trial works out and that these innovative designs can help to make our wonderful coastline accessible to all for both our residents and our visitors.”

Designer Phil Pugh has been working with Active Northumberland on the scheme.

Ronnie Scheu, disability inclusion officer at Make-a-Move Leisure Inclusion Team at Active Northumberland, said: “It is sad that in 2015 we are still at a stage where not everyone can access their local beach.

“The wheelchairs are a great idea and Active Northumberland, through its Ability 2 Play Inclusion programme, aims to make leisure services across our county as accessible to as many people as we can.”

Source: Chronicle Live 

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