Ask a Peer: Back to the Beach

I use to love the beach but haven’t actually been on the beach since my spinal cord injury.  Normal terrain in the city and suburbs can be hard enough, but going to the beach can be a challenge whether walking or in a wheelchair.  What has helped you get back to the beach – equipment, planning, location (Jersey, Delaware, Outer Banks)?

A beach wheelchair at Wildwood

A beach wheelchair at Wildwood

Wow!  When I sent this question out to our peers, nearly everyone responded about the availability of the beach wheelchairs.  Beach wheelchairs look similar to traditional wheelchairs, but have 4 large, shock-absorbing wheels that easily move over sand. They are usually available at lifeguard stations on nearly every beach along the coast.  You just need to call ahead to reserve one.  Depending on the time of year, they can be in high demand!  There is one drawback to this chair – you would need to be pushed.  The way the chair is made it is impossible to move on your own.  So you have a choice: hang out on the ramps and boards and hold on to your independence or get a little help from your able-bodied friends and enjoy the sand and surf!

Here are what our peers had to say about going to the beach in a wheelchair.

  • “I’ve been to Atlantic City, Ocean City, Jamaica and Miami.  The best thing is to PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!  If you call the beach or the information line for the area you are in, they should be able to make reservations for a beach chair. Word of warning: you can’t control the chair at all.  It can also be pushed on the boardwalk, but it was a struggle because it’s meant for the sand.”
  • “Every town in NJ has a minimum of 3 beach-wheelchairs, usually all at the most popular beach in that town. The chairs can be tricky so invite someone feeling strong to help out, or if you have a crazy dog like mine, get them to pull you.  Each beach adventure, I learn a little more of what to bring and what not to bring, but I recommend a decent reclining beach chair, as the sand isn’t all the soft and it’s easier to get from chair to chair, than sand to chair.”
  • “It’s hard to transfer [into the beach wheelchair], so having at least two people is the best. Also make sure you have an umbrella and lots of water!”
  • Ocean City and Wildwood now have ramps down to the beach and a wood plank walkway for wheelchairs.”

Do you have any tips to add? Any recommendations for accessible beaches in your area?

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