Ohioans planning to visit South Carolina or Florida may find it easier to enjoy the local beaches. Navarre Beach in Florida and several beach communities in South Carolina now offer beach wheelchairs – free of charge – to disabled visitors.
Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the beaches in South Carolina have wheelchair ramps at some parts of their beach walkways. But traveling onto and along the beach can be a challenge with a manual wheelchair, which has narrow wheels.
“When choosing a manual wheelchair, there are many options to consider,” says Avacare Medical, which provides wheelchairs and other medical supplies. “You can choose a seat width between 12 and 30 inches to suit patients of all sizes, from pediatric to bariatric and everything in between. The standard seat width for average adults is between 16” to 22”. You can also choose a weight capacity of up to 700 lb for sturdy support for even heavier weights.”
One thing you can’t easily choose: the size of the wheels. The narrow wheels of a manual wheelchair make it difficult or impossible to navigate sand. Specialty chairs are available, but often at a high cost.
Many beach communities in South Carolina have laid down mats that make it easy for wheelchair users to enter and enjoy the beach. In places where mats are not a feasible option, modified wheelchairs are available, free of charge, to users.
While many prefer the chairs to the mats, they do have limitations. Those who require special seating or don’t have use of their arms may not be able to use the modified beach wheelchairs.
Unlike a traditional manual wheelchair, the beach wheelchairs cannot be propelled independently. Users will have to have someone push them in the chair. There’s also a limited supply, which leaves people with limited options if all of the chairs are taken.
Beach tracking chairs can be costly – as much as $2,500, but local residents wouldn’t have it any other way. Myrtle Beach considered scrapping the chairs, but after public outcry, the town ordered 12 new chairs. Although the county gets few requests for the chairs, they are available when needed.
Florida is following in South Carolina’s footsteps. Navarre Beach will soon offer aquatic beach wheelchairs. The board gave the initial approval of the purchase of two beach wheelchairs at the Santa Rosa County Commissioner meeting.
The Navarre Visitor’s Center regularly receives requests for beach-access wheelchairs.
The chairs will feature four patented balloon wheels that are designed to traverse sand, snow, dirt and rocks. The chairs will also include a mesh bag, umbrella and cushion.
Windjammers on the Pier has agreed to manage the check-in and check-out system and to store the chairs under the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier.
The free beach wheelchairs will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Windjammers will promote the chairs around the pier and on their website.
Along with the beach wheelchairs, the county has also approved the purchase of a 100-foot roll-out mat that will allow people using wheelchairs, strollers and walkers to enter the beach.