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Beach wheelchairs rely on the support of voluntary groups

April 30th, 2021 10:10 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Kate O’Dea pulling her sister Lilly on the beach wheelchair at the Warren Beach last summer. Cllr Hayes said he had received a lot of queries about the availability of the service.

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ANY plans to roll out beach wheelchairs at more West Cork beaches would depend on voluntary groups who would be willing to oversee their operation and store them overnight, a recent meeting heard.

Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) had queried if the Council had plans to roll out more of them this summer at a recent online West Cork Municipal District meeting.

He said he had been contacted by several people about improving access to beaches and he highlighted the system of the beach wheelchair in operation at the Warren Beach.

‘Are we proposing to roll these out at other beaches too this summer as these are ideal for traversing sand or explore putting down mats to improve access for wheelchairs and other buggies?’ asked Cllr Hayes.

However, senior executive officer Mac Dara O h-Icí said while the beach wheelchair at the Warren had been very successful, he pointed out that the big difficulty is getting someone to control them, sign them in and out and store them at night.

‘The beach guards are there but their job is to protect the safety of the users of the beach and we don’t want a situation whereby they are signing in a beach wheelchair when someone is getting difficulty in the water,’ said Mr h-Icí.

‘In the Warren the local Pitch & Putt Club volunteered to take on the signing in, and if there are groups in other locations who are willing to do it we will definitely  explore what we can do with them.’

Mr O h-Icí added that they would need people who would be able to sign in and sign out the beach wheelchairs and store them overnight. He also said the mats haven’t been very effective where they have been trialled. The all-terrain beach Hippocampe chair – which has balloon type wheel that can travel over soft sand unlike regular wheelchairs – was launched in 2019 and it can be taken out in one hour slots by pre-booking it free of charge through Rosscarbery Pitch & Putt Club.

The Warren Beach is the only beach in the county providing a beach wheelchair and was selected following an audit of a number of beaches by the Disability Federation of Ireland.

A Council spokesperson said that the beach wheelchair is available to hire, free of charge at weekends from the months of June, July and August and the first two weekends of September.

‘It will be available seven days a week but prior booking is essential through Rosscarbery Pitch & Putt Club.’

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