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May 2021 2nd edition

New amphibious wheelchairs make beaches accessible to all

The innovative wheelchairs are “amphibious” in that they are able to move easily on sand and float on water.

South Africa is renowned for its spectacular coastlines, with our sunny beJakkie Pieters from The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa accepts their amphibious wheelchair on behalf of the Kouga Municipality.aches along the eastern and western shores being hailed as some of the best in the world. Every year, thousands of tourists and locals flock to the seaside to play and create holiday memories with family, but not much thought is given to the unique challenges faced by the disabled in enjoying time at the beach.

Taking this into account, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), together with the Ford Motor Company Fund, has donated “amphibious wheelchairs” to Blue Flag beaches in four coastal municipalities in South Africa.

The chairs will make beaches universally accessible to those with disabilities and create awareness around spaces becoming more accessible to all.

The innovative wheelchairs are “amphibious” in that they are able to move easily on sand and enter and float on water, said WESSA National Coastal Coordinator Robert Slater.

WESSA implements the international Blue Flag programme in South Africa which ensures beaches meet global standards of safety, cleanliness, access to amenities and environmental management, among other criteria.

The City of Cape Town, Overstrand, Bitou and Kouga municipalities were awarded the chairs based on their existing disabled access to beaches and their commitment to making their Blue Flag beaches usable for all people. The chairs will be freely available for disabled beachgoers to use at Blue Flag beaches to be determined by the recipient municipalities.

Director for Education and Global Community Development at the Ford Motor Company Fund Mike Schmidt said, “This is yet another example of how mobility can improve the quality of life for people in many different ways. We’re happy to support this unique project that will allow more people to fully experience the joys of the beach - from traveling along the sandy shores to going into the water.”