When you live in Florida, the beach is a big part of the culture. Even people with disabilities who require special wheelchairs to access the beach take part in the laid-back lifestyle of sun and sand.
However, in Volusia County, a sprawling area with nearly 500,000 residents in east-central Florida, the number of beach-accessible wheelchairs has diminished in recent years and advocacy groups are struggling to get more.
At one time the county had dozens of beach wheelchairs but now it has only two which means many wheelchair-bound kids and adults are limited in how far they can go when it comes to their day at the beach. The man who made the beach-accessible wheelchairs for the county was Beach Safety Captain, Jay McDonough who unfortunately suffered a fatal heart attack in 2011.
Since his passing, the county has fallen behind in ordering more wheelchairs and the many it had have since broken down. The beach-accessible wheelchairs feature larger balloon tires that enable the chair to move easily over soft sand, something a standard wheelchair can’t do. While the beaches in Volusia County have plenty of wheelchair-accessible ramps, the sand is proving to be the main problem.
“We found that the soft sand, given the wind, blows right up on the ramp,” Michael Porter, Vice President of the Handicapped Adults of Volusia County told News-13. “So halfway down the ramp, you’re in a foot of sand and you haven’t gotten to the bottom of the ramp yet”.
Porter has gone before the Volusia County Council asking for increased access to the beach for people with disabilities, as well as asking for more beach wheel chairs.
Parents of disabled children have looked into purchasing beach-accessible wheelchairs but the average cost for these special chairs is $1,600. For most the cost is way too high for a wheelchair that will only be used occasionally.
Hopefully the county will work out this issue so everyone can enjoy the beach!