City beaches are now a lot more accessible for individuals with disabilities. Several community groups and city council members raised funds for three new beach wheelchairs. The wheelchairs have big wheels that easily roll through sand.
On Thursday, the wheelchairs were added to San Diego’s free beach wheelchair program, which needed new equipment to keep up with demand from both locals and visitors to the 17 miles of coastline in the city.
The La Jolla Shores Association and Disabled Services Advisory Council raised funds; and Council members Kevin Faulconer, Todd Gloria and Sherri Lightner each donated district funds to purchase the beach wheelchairs.
Lightner said the city often gets letters and emails from users of the beach wheelchairs.
“They tell us how they were able to put their feet in the ocean for the first time in 20 years; how they were able to watch their daughter truly experience the sand and surf; how they were able to play with their children at the water’s edge. These moments might not have been possible without the beach wheelchair program,” said Lightner, whose district includes La Jolla.
Amelia Opean, a paraplegic and avid swimmer, spearheaded the fundraiser. Opean was having a hard time reaching the water because the only beach wheelchair at La Jolla Shores was in need of repairs.
She said that without the chair she had to recruit help on the beach to get her to the water or ask lifeguards for assistance.
“Now we will have plenty of chairs to get me down to the water... I can’t thank you enough,” she told the community groups and councilmembers.
“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.”
The beach wheelchairs will be available to beachgoers at the La Jolla Shores, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach lifeguard towers. Mission Beach also has motorized wheelchairs that are free to use.