Whilst it can’t be said for all of them, more and more UK beaches are becoming accessible which means that a fair bit of the coastline is suitable for visitors with access and mobility needs. From forward planning, to dedicated beach accessories, here are some tips on how to make a day at the beach enjoyable and successful.
- UK beaches are becoming increasingly accessible.
- Forward planning can help ensure a successful trip
- Dedicated beach accessories can add to the enjoyment.
Affordable accessible solutions to make beach visits easy for everyone can’t be taken for granted. Sandy beaches and easily accessible water are part and parcel of a trip to the seaside but can present significant challenges for wheelchair users.
Although some beaches have specific sand-accessible wheelchairs available that can move from sand to water easily and have thicker tyres to roll more easily over the sandy surface, doing research and making provision prior to the trip rather than just turning up can pay dividends.
For example, some beaches may offer the use of sand-friendly wheelchairs, but they might not provide adapted washrooms or the facilities necessary for other mobility aid users so finding out prior to the trip can help with the decision about where to go more easily for a stress-free day out.
If it has a Blue Flag award, you can be assured that it will have high quality environmental standards. Check out the parking situation and make sure it is compatible with your requirements, especially if you are using a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle. Make sure that the toilets or changing places are suitable in terms of nearby staff or RADAR keys, and if sand wheelchairs are available, book them in advance if you can.
Having settled on a destination, taking the right beach accessories can also really add to the enjoyment.
If beach visits are a regular and you think that buying your own beach wheelchair is more cost effective than frequent renting, there are quite a few options available. Yes, they are expensive, but you can choose a chair with features such as flotation devices, salt and sand resistant frames, sturdy outdoor fabrics, cup holders for drinks on the go, swing-away armrests, or an umbrella mount.
If you do have an umbrella mount, then a shade canopy that can attach to the wheelchair avoids having to try and place a beach umbrella in the sand or the need to keep on moving it round – at the same time as providing shade and sun protection. And it can easily be stored when not in use.
If you are using your own standard wheelchair, consider whether a wheelchair conversion kit could be a worthwhile investment. Kits can make a standard wheelchair suitable for all-terrains by swapping the usual wheels for low pressure balloon wheels which come with all the hardware needed to fit them. When the day out is over, the original wheels can simply be swapped back.
It might also be worth considering a portable wheelchair seatbelt as you cannot guarantee a rented or borrowed beach wheelchair will have one. They also provide extra security for a user in their own wheelchair over sandy, uneven, bumpy terrain.
If you have a wheelchair cushion on your own wheelchair and you are borrowing or renting one at the beach, bringing it along is bound to help with comfort over the day. In hot weather, it may be worth considering a wheelchair cushion with specific ventilation holes that can have a washable cover and an anti-slip base.
Finally, remember to bring a bag or wheelchair back pack to use for things like snacks, drinks, sun cream or sun hats. That way, you can go to the beach café when it suits you, but you’ve got everything close by if you just want to relax in the perfect spot.