Thus Spake Zuska

Beach Wheelchair

Posting will be sparse to non-existent over the next week, as it has been the past few days. This is because I’m hanging with Mom for a week or so. Actually, I’m hanging with my mom and my sister at the beach at Cape Hatteras. Sister and I have spent months planning this undertaking. Cape Hatteras is a place very special to my mom; it was a beloved vacation spot for her and my dad, and it is more special to her since he passed. She hasn’t been back there in years, and her failing health has made it questionable whether she might be able to undertake such a trip at all. So it’s very exciting that we were able to get her here for a week this month. Traveling through an airport with a wheelchair and all that implies is no simple undertaking.

We were so grateful for all the help we received from US Airways airline employees, from regular people around us, and from a truly amazing SkyCap in the Norfolk airport who transformed our experience from “nearly impossible” to “piece of cake”. We were happy to tip him heavily as he made all the difference in a smooth transit from baggage claim to the rental car. We aren’t sure how we would have done it otherwise.

But here’s what I’m really excited about. We used this technology once before but it is even more crucial on this trip as my mother’s mobility is even more reduced now. It’s the beach wheelchair. The beach wheelchair allows us to take her from the hotel right down to the shoreline. It lets her enjoy the waterfront, the waves crashing on the shore, the sounds and smells and sights of the ocean. She can sit there and watch children playing on the beach, people playing with their boogie boards, and wind surfers plying the waves. We can go up and down the shore distances that would just be unthinkable otherwise.

i-5919b3c15683e1ad48bc9f91f24b155d-Hatteras with Mom 039.jpg

Here’s Zuska saying a very big thank-you to the inventor(s) of the beach wheelchair. Kudos to every engineer who works to open up access to the disabled, everyone who works to make life more accessible to those who would otherwise be locked indoors and limited in options. I can tell you all your long hours of work are worth it, because of the enjoyment you brought to my mother today.

As of 2003, which is the latest information I could find on the net, there were no beach wheelchair options that provided good independent mobility – all require someone to push the person in the wheelchair. But as far as I’m concerned, the beach wheelchair we used made the difference between my mother being able to experience the beach, versus not at all. It would be great if beach wheelchair inventors could take it to the next step and create something that gave wheelchair users more independence. My mother, who is not the most adventurous person in the world, expressed an interest in a motorized beach wheelchair. She was supremely confident that in just a few years such a thing would be widely available. You hear that, technology geeks? Get working!

Thanks to Ocean Atlantic Rentals who provided the beach wheelchair, and Best Western Ocean Reef Suites, whose hotel siting provides accessible beach access for a beach wheelchair in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Thanks to US Airways for kindness in transport through on our trip.

Comments

  1. #1 Brigit
    September 18, 2007

    I’m so glad your mother was able to enjoy the beach. I’ve been in beaches that also have a special area built in cement inside the water’s edge. People with impaired mobility can enter through the ramp and sit down with friends and family inside this round area in the water that has cement seats and backing. This way everyone can sit in the water.

  2. #2 Sarah Smith
    September 18, 2007

    My partner and I used the same model of wheelchair your mother used, and we loved it! My partner Max had not been to the ocean in over 10 years because he believed it was not accessible to him. He was actually giddy to feel the water on his feet again.

    By the way, there are also now motorized beach wheelchairs. Check out http://www.hotshotproducts.org/
    for an example. Now we just need to make these options affordable for all people with disabilities!

    Sarah Smith in Columbus, Ohio

  3. #3 Zuska
    September 19, 2007

    Brigit and Sarah, thanks for the comments. I’m sorry Sarah’s got stuck in moderation so long…I have been checking in only intermittently while at the OBX with my mom.

    Yesterday we visited the Currituck Lighthouse in Corolla. The grounds are very difficult to navigate with a wheelchair and the gift shop is completely inaccessible. In the afternoon, however, we went to Jockey’s Ridge, which has a wonderful boardwalk out to an overlook of the dune. The only rough spot was where some sand had drifted over the boardwalk and we got a little bogged down, but my sister and I were able to push/pull the chair through the sand.

    We were alternately frustrated and happy throughout the day as we encountered places that were less or more accessible. This is something we should all be more concerned about because, if we live long enough, it’s an issue that will matter personally to all of us! So there’s your motivation, if you aren’t motivated by just wanting to make the world more accessible for everyone…

  4. #4 Zuska
    September 19, 2007

    I just learned that two beach-access wheelchairs are available to the general public at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

    http://www.nps.gov/archive/caha/beachaccess.htm

    So if you can’t afford the required week’s rental fee at Ocean Atlantic Rentals or you don’t want to rent one for a whole week, it is still possible to take advantage of this technology!

  5. #5 Annerine O'Neill
    May 21, 2008

    I wanted to know who invented the beach wheelchair. I have to do a project of wheelchairs, can anyone please help me?

  6. #6 Bob
    February 15, 2009

    Hi, This is Bob from Ocean Atlantic Rentals on the Outer Banks of NC. We are all very happy the Beach Wheelchair helped you during your vacation. I hope we can do it again. Those beach wheelchairs help more people than we ever thought it would when we decided to carry them. Thank You for your business!

  7. #7 Jerry Nasello
    May 2, 2009

    Buying an electric beach wheelchair is an expensive proposition–$7,000.00-$10,000.00, and Medicare will not pay one cent for a recreational wheelchair. That is why we rent them. We have quite a few rental options starting as low as $30.00 per day. Please check out our video at http://www.beachpowerrentals.com

    We are located in Gulf Shores, AL and we offer delivery and pick up service.

  8. #8 f. tomichek
    July 18, 2009

    can a person rent a beach wheelchair at seaisle city beach

  9. #9 Jerry Nasello
    September 1, 2009

    [URL=http://img377.imageshack.us/i/jerryinchair2relaxed1.jpg/][IMG]http://img377.imageshack.us/img377/3158/jerryinchair2relaxed1.th.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

    We thought you might like to know about how our little motorized beach wheelchair company is doing. We opened for business in April of this year. We rented a grand total of one motorized beach wheelchair in the month of April.

    However, in the month of May we were booked solid for almost the entire month. In April we had a total of five chairs available for rentals. By June, we had eight chairs available for renting. We now have nine chairs and have been turning down reservations for almost 45 days.

    We have plans for 20 chairs by spring of next year. We knew there was a definite need for this service. Just reading the story about your mother is convincing enough. When we were testing the prototype at the beach we came across many people who all knew someone who could take advantage of these wonderful chairs.

    It is one thing to ride in a beach wheelchair being pushed by someone else. It is a totally different experience to drive the chair yourself. With a motorized chair, the driver experiences freedom and independence that is lacking with a manual chair.

    We have met so many wonderful people with all different types of needs. We have learned a tremendous amount from these folks. We have learned to adjust our chairs so that our customers are comfortable. We can adjust the armrests, the foot rest, the location of the joystick, provide for oxygen, and we just added an umbrella option.

    As our business begins to slow for the winter season, we plan to overhaul every chair. You would not believe the effects of the harsh environment on our chairs. We are constantly trying to improve the resistance of the chairs to this predicament.

    We are totally committed to this endeavor and we invite any and all to experience the freedom and independence that a motorized beach wheelchair has to offer.

  10. #10 Mike Jonh
    September 7, 2009

    Yesterday we visited the Currituck Lighthouse in Corolla. The grounds are very difficult to navigate with a wheelchair and the gift shop is completely inaccessible. In the afternoon, however, we went to Jockey’s Ridge, which has a wonderful boardwalk out to an overlook of the dune. The only rough spot was where some sand had drifted over the boardwalk and we got a little bogged down, but my sister and I were able to push/pull the chair through the sand.

  11. #11 Jeanne
    July 10, 2010

    Our family is considering renting a chair next summer in the Outer Banks. How well do you think a fully-loaded (around 250 pound person) Beach Wheelchair would push through the softer dry sand before you get down close to the water? Thanks for your help!

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