Disabled beachgoers have new tool to roam the sand
by Mariko Lamb
Published - 07/11/12 - 04:05 PM | 3189 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer (at podium) and councilmembers Todd Gloria and Sherri Lightner donated funds from their offices to supply beach communities with new beach wheelchairs for disabled beachgoers.               Photo by Mariko Lamb I The Beacon
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When the ocean’s call beckons, San Diego’s residents and visitors alike flock to the coastal communities by the hundreds, particularly during the city’s warm summer months. For beachgoers with disabilities, however, a simple venture to the beach can be a daunting and discouraging undertaking.

Now, thanks to the efforts of councilmembers, community groups and advocates for those with disabilities, wheelchair-bound beachgoers, too, can effortlessly answer the ocean’s enticing call.

Just in time for summer, community leaders have banded together to supply three new beach wheelchairs at San Diego’s busiest beaches. The wheel-chairs, which have oversize, all-terrain wheels and a water-friendly cushioned seat, allow those who are mobility disabled to easily access the ocean, at no cost to the user.

La Jolla Shores Surfing Association member Amelia Opean — an avid swimmer and wheelchair-bound paraplegic — spearheaded the fundraising effort to fix La Jolla Shores’ only beach wheelchair last year.

“I’ve been swimming down at La Jolla Shores about six years,” she said. “The chair wasn’t working too well last year, so I stepped up to raise some money to get it fixed. Co-workers, friends, families — we all pitched in — and the La Jolla Shores Surfing Association was generous enough to match those funds.”

When area councilmembers Sherri Lightner, Kevin Faulconer and Todd Gloria discovered Opean’s efforts, they, too, decided to donate funds from their own office budgets for the cause.

“I can’t thank the councilmembers enough,” Opean said. “To step up and actually buy a new wheelchair is beyond my dreams. I thought we were just going to get the old one repaired. Now we have plenty of chairs that can get me down to the water.”

With the new additions, at least two manual beach wheelchairs are available for free at the La Jolla Shores, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach lifeguard towers. To reserve ahead, visit the lifeguard towers or call (619) 980-1876.

“All San Diegans and visitors deserve the opportunity to enjoy our city’s beaches, bays and natural wonders,” said Faulconer. “These new beach wheelchairs will help beachgoers and surfers with disabilities to feel every bonfire, taste every s’more, watch every sunset and catch every wave.”

Other partners include the Disability Services Advisory Council, which donated funds for the new wheelchairs; San Diego’s Park and Recreation Department, which will oversee the program; and San Diego lifeguards, who will assist beach wheelchair users.
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