SCOTLAND’S first beach wheelchairs will soon be available for rent – absolutely free of charge.
The chairs, with specially designed wheels to cope with wet or dry sand, will be stationed at the Beach hut at North Berwick harbour.
It is hoped that the project, made possible by £10,000 funding from the Big Lottery, will eventually be replicated across the rest of Scotland.
Over the last few months the group has worked closely with the local community and have received positive feedback from over 100 local families. In February this year they held a busy ‘come and try’ event where people road tested various types of wheelchairs.
Co-founder and chair of the Beach Wheelchair project, Alison Brown, said: “As a mum of a six year old boy with a physical disability I know firsthand what a difference these wheelchairs can make.
“We had the opportunity to use one in France last year and this allowed us to move about freely rather than carrying him to one fixed spot on the beach. He was able to go right up to the shoreline, dabble with his net in rock pools and look for shells along the beach.”
Co-founder and secretary, Jackie Tagg, added: “Since starting the project about a year ago we’ve been blown away by the support we have had and we’ve met individuals who have never been on the beach, and families that no longer go to the seaside as they can’t go onto the beach together.
“This scheme will help to change that and our ultimate aim would be to replicate it in other parts of the country so more people can enjoy more of Scotland’s beautiful beaches.”
Announcing the award, Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair, Maureen McGinn, said: “Today’s funding will help this seaside town turn an ambitious idea into a groundbreaking project; one which has the potential to change lives locally and across the country.
“This will be Scotland’s first mainland beach wheelchair loan scheme that will help people to focus on their abilities, rather than their disability. I am delighted that our funding allows the project to be realised, and so will enable more people to enjoy quality time with their family at the beach.”