Beach Wheelchairs: Making Summer Fun Accessible for ALL

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Beach wheelchairs make a trip to the ocean or lakeside more enjoyable for wheelchair users.  These specialty wheelchairs are often built for all terrains, and some models even can transition from sand to water with specialized floats.  Beach wheelchairs come in manual models, which require someone to push them, or motorized models, which allow you to navigate the beach independently.

beach wheelchair access surface signKudos go out to the communities, states, and countries that have thought of EVERYONE when it comes to accessible beaches.  While we’ve provided information for some of the more progressive thinkers when it comes to beach wheelchairs, but please don’t hesitate to advocate for support of accessible beaches for all.  Here are a few ways you can take action today:

  • Contact your state disability rights advocacy group. The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) may be able to point you in the right direction.
  • Contact your local public works office and/or write a congressman in your jurisdiction. You can find the appropriate contact here.

In the meantime, check out the following beaches and enjoy some summer fun!

States Leading the Way with Beach Wheelchairs

#1 California

Paraplegic man in beach wheelchair looking at the ocean and peopleWhy don’t you do more than some California dreamin’ and go ahead and plan your next beach holiday to the west coast?  More than 100 California beaches in sixteen counties now offer beach wheelchairs and most of the time they are available free of charge!  What is even more remarkable about California’s beach accessibility is that locals say it has been made possible by citizen choice, and not just a result of political and ADA pressure.

Bonnie Lewkowicz, founder, and president of Access Northern California says, “The movement has grown relatively quickly, fueled by recognition of need, rather than the threat of a lawsuit or ADA compliance.  As more people continue to witness the chairs rolling up and down beaches, undoubtedly many other locations will make those devices available in the future.”

Your one-stop shop for California Beach Wheelchair and Accessibility information is the California Coastal Commission website.  This website offers an interactive map of California and listed information regarding which beaches offer beach wheelchairs and other accessible features.  In addition, the California Coastal Commission offers a free, downloadable 120-page guide book entitled, ‘A Wheelchair Rider’s Guide–Los Angeles and Orange County Coast’.  You can find it here.

They even include a specific email address which will put you in touch with someone who can answer any questions you may have while planning your trip to the beach!

Oh yeah, and if you’d like to ‘pay it forward’ while enjoying your complimentary California beach wheelchair, feel free to engage in a little clean-up exercise while on a swim break!  California beaches have made free trash grabbers available for those who wish to take part in coastal clean-up.

#2 Florida

PWD beach shower areaComing in at second place for beach wheelchair accessibility is the state of Florida.  This family-friendly beach-touting state has 35 state parks that offer free beach wheelchairs.

Florida is a family favorite and offers both manual and motorized beach wheelchairs on beaches all over the city.  More information can be found here.

Those with questions regarding the availability of beach wheelchairs or other accessibility issues should consider contacting the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association.  They offer a variety of useful information for all your outdoor enjoyment needs.

Paraplegic woman in wheelchair taking photos on beach#3 Virginia Beach, Virginia

The city of Virginia Beach offers picturesque beaches with many boardwalks to make travel easy and convenient.  In addition, they offer beach wheelchair rentals free of charge!  Since there is a limited supply of chairs, they suggest that you call ahead to reserve one.

#4 Maui, Hawaii

Several beaches in Hawaii offer beach wheelchairs, including Kaanapali and Kamaole Beaches.

Kaanapali is a 3 mile stretch of beach with a paved boardwalk located on the West side of Maui.  You can enjoy this paradise with a beach wheelchair, and delivery is even offered by Gammie Homecare.

PWD Beach RampKamaole I or ‘Kam I’ Beach is located in South Maui and is the only place on the island with free beach wheelchair rentals.  Just like the surroundings, the process for rental is rather low key–just contact the lifeguard and ask him for assistance.

For additional information on planning your trip to Hawaii, check out TripAdvisor’s accessibility community.

Exotic Destinations

Mexico

Mexico recently came into the beach wheelchair scene by offering rentals in both Puerto Vallarta and Bucerias.  Private companies in Mexico offer these chairs and often provide delivery at the airport, as well as delivery and pick-up from resorts or vacation homes.  Beach wheelchair booking is available via this website.

Paraplegic man in wheelchair at beachThailand

Is Phuket, Thailand on your travel wish list?  Thailand is one of the more popular tourist destinations for globetrotters, and for good reason!

Check out the beach wheelchair by Hippocampe which is available for rent at a very low cost on many of Phuket’s white sand beaches.  The website, Accessible Thailand, can provide you all the details.  Using Paypal, you can even reserve before arriving in Thailand!

United Kingdom

In 2006, Pembrokeshire County, home of many beautiful and peaceful beaches, made it a priority to offer more options to people with disabilities.  Through a joint initiative between the Pembrokeshore Access Group and the County Council, many all-terrain beach wheelchairs were made available to the general public.  They are available at many beaches all across the region for a very reasonable fee, as low as £3 per session.  A full list of beaches can be found here.

Paraplegic man in beach wheelchair looking at the oceanAustralia

The land down under is known for many pristine beaches and offers many locations where you can rent a beach wheelchair.  Check out this complete list provided by the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia (DSA).  While you’re at it you might as well read up on how you can try surfing during your holiday!

Take Matters into Your Own Hands

Some true beach lovers choose to purchase their own beach wheelchairs for holiday use.  Several companies offer a variety of models and styles that are sure to reflect your needs and style.  Many of the models offer convenient travel bags or cases that make packing your beach wheelchair a breeze.  We’ve listed a few beach wheelchairs that may interest you:

One popular manufacturer of beach wheelchairs is Sandrider.  They offer off-road custom beach wheelchairs that are stylish and easy to transport.  In addition, they come in a variety of frame colors, fabrics and finishes so that your swimsuit can even match your wheels!  They also offer some funky features and accessories such as a drink/umbrella/fishing rod holder, parking brake, seat belt, moveable armrests and a rolling travel bag.

The ‘Floating Beach Wheelchair’ from Aqua Creek Products is the ‘duck’ of beach wheelchairs, as it seamlessly transitions from sand to sea.  This chair is made of lightweight stainless steel with an aluminum frame and puncture-proof tires and therefore is durable and easy to maintain.

It’s also worth taking a look into the used market of beach wheelchairs.

You may be able to save a buck or two by looking on a site like Ebay or Amazon.

Additional Resources:

For more information on where to find your own beach wheelchair check out this information provided by the United Spinal Association.

Image Credits: All images available via
Beach” search on PUSHLivingPhotos.com Disability Inclusive Stock Images

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