Wheelchair-friendly English Bay coming soon says park board
The park board plans to install a beach mat to give people in wheelchairs access to sand and water.
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Disability advocates are applauding the Vancouver Park Board for plans to install a beach mat at English Bay to make the beach accessible for people in wheelchairs.
The pilot project will allow Vancouver resident Cherry Thompson to enjoy the sandy beach – something she hasn’t been able to do in years.
“With the beach mats we’ll be able to access the sand itself and maybe even sit or transfer to the sand and enjoy a nice lounge on the beach,” said Thompson, who uses a manual wheelchair.
“It will hopefully also provide access to the water which is great for someone like me who likes to watch birds as I maybe can finally get back to spotting the birds at sea and on the shoreline,” they added.
The park board may install mats in Vancouver’s other beaches next summer, depending on maintenance needs and feedback during this year's pilot project.
“We’re really doing it for everyone,” said board chair Michael Wiebe.
“Because everyone will be needing to utilize these types of facilities at one point in their lives. So if it’s as a senior, or maybe you broke your leg, there is always a time when somebody has a disability.”
The plastic beach mat will be secured to the ground with deep stakes and could go as far down as to the water’s edge during high tide, he explained.
But crews won’t be able to install the mat until the park board receives those stakes from the manufacturer, Mobi-mat, he said. He is hopeful the mat will be ready by late August.
Disability advocate Gabrielle Peters has been asking the park board for better accessibility at the beaches since last year.
People in wheelchairs currently have to call the park board ahead of time if they want to use one of two beach wheelchairs – which have inflatable wheels and can roll on the sand – at each Vancouver beach but that isn't a perfect solution, she said.
“There’s a complete loss of independence because beach wheelchairs are not self propelling. You have to have someone to push you.”
She hopes this pilot project is a sign the park board will make improvements for people with disabilities in other parks too.
“I think [the park board] really deserve a lot of credit and I really hope that this becomes the approach that the city and the park board takes toward accessibility.”
Correction: The beach mats will be installed up to the high tide line, not the low tide line as a previous version of the story stated.