Sunny South Africa is renowned for its diverse coastline (about 2400km), beautiful beaches, and wonderful weather. A day at the beach is easily accessible for most visitors, but not for the mobility impaired - especially those confined to manual and electric wheelchairs. Our constitution embraces complete inclusivity for one and all, and so it is exciting to see innovative measures emerging for wheelchair beachgoers.
The most recent breaking news took place earlier this month with the announcement of a pilot programme being launched at Muizenberg Beach, providing people in wheelchairs with easier access to Cape Town’s beaches. Up until now, a normal manual or electric wheelchair hasn’t been an option for beach activity, as sand can cause the bearings to seize and salt air and water cause rust damage to metal frames. The specialised beach wheelchair options that would be required are financially prohibitive for the man on the street, (and the man on the beach).
This pilot programme initiative is an exciting collaboration between the City of Cape Town and the Provincial Health Department and involves a universal access mat which is rolled out, providing a pathway that gives people with manual and electric wheelchairs, mobility scooters and other walking-aids access to the ocean in minutes.
This announcement also coincided with International Wheelchair Day on 1 March 2020, which aims at building awareness around conditions that limit personal mobility and the struggles wheelchair users face in their day to day lives. Getting to the beach is certainly one of those challenges.
But what about the rest of the country?
Here’s the good news! The Mother City isn’t the only location where the physically impaired can enjoy the beach.Until this mat is rolled out to more beaches in more provinces, the challenge of beach access and enjoying the sand and waves for wheelchair users is not completely impossible.
Heading to the Friendly City of Port Elizabeth?
Wheelchair access along the King’s Beach Promenade makes experiencing the beach at Nelson Mandela Bay possible. Over the summer months, lifeguards are on duty to assist disabled swimmers in and out of the two open-air pools at the McArthur Pool and Leisure Centre. Humewood Beach - one of four international Blue Flag beaches in Nelson Mandela Bay - focuses on accessibility for manual and electric wheelchair users, including ablution facilities.
The warm Indian ocean beaches of Kwazulu Natal have also embraced the right for universal beach access. At Ushaka Beach in Durban, the ‘MobiMats’ project
is in place and a number of all-terrain beach wheelchairs are available at various beaches around Durban.
In 2018, the Ford Fund partnered with Wessa’s (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) innovative Blue Flag Amphibious Wheelchair Project - donating $10 000 for specially designed wheelchairs that move easily on the sand, enter the water and float in the sea. Selected Blue Flag beaches across South Africa will provide the wheelchairs free of charge to those who need them.
At Shoprider we applaud such innovative measures to help overcome challenges that the mobility-impaired face. As suppliers of manual and electric wheelchairs, and mobility scooters since 1988, we are well acquainted with the day to day needs and demands of our customers.
Our after-sales service and support give Shoprider the competitive edge when it comes to customer satisfaction and our ongoing commitment to quality control. In partnering with top European and US manufacturers, we have expanded our services to include vehicle conversions for easy and practical transporting of your portable mobility scooter or electric wheelchair.