As a friend on Facebook posted, “Everybody has a beach body!”
The City of Ottawa has provided two new beach wheelchairs for public beaches. The new chairs will be ready to use this summer at Britannia Beach and Petrie Island, joining one already in use at Mooney’s Bay.
The chairs are specifically designed for beaches with thick, inflatable tires that won’t get caught up in the sand. Beaches can be a barrier for wheelchair users, since the thin wheels on most chairs easily get lodged in the sand. The “balloon tire” wheels on the new chairs are big enough to roll over sand and right into the water, where visitors will be able to use them within the swimming area.
The chairs will be free for public use on a first-come-first-serve basis, and can be accessed by asking the life guard staff on duty.
Dan Brisebois, a director with the Ottawa’s recreation department, said the city might look into obtaining more chairs in the future.
Ottawa beaches have had some accessible infrastructure before. For nearly a decade, Mooney’s Bay has had a mat that, when unfolded onto the sand, allowed wheelchair users to traverse the beach down to the shoreline.
But there wasn’t a convenient way for someone in a chair to get into the water once they reached the end of the mat, Brisebois says. Additionally, it took a while to fold and unfold the mat, which he says meant that it was “not very responsive to community needs.”
While disabled users will get easier access to larger areas, it may still be an inconvenience with some visitors that assistance is required for getting in and out of the chair, as well as pushing it around.