A trial project to bring two beach-accessible wheelchairs to Whitstable launches today (Tuesday 30 July).
Beach Within Reach is a Thanet-based charity, and its expansion to Whitstable has been organised by two of the town’s residents and disability campaigners, Craig Potter and Rory Heap, who have developed the scheme in partnership with Canterbury City Council. The council will administer it from its Whitstable Harbour office.
The two wheelchairs will be available free of charge to anyone who, due to mobility issues, would otherwise be unable to get onto the beach. Residents and visitors will be able to pre-book them between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday, until Friday 30 August.
Enquiries and bookings can be made via the harbour office on 01227 274086 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Craig Potter, who uses a wheelchair full-time, said: “Though this is, for now, only a pilot scheme, I am really looking forward to literally being able to dip my toes in the water of my home town for the first time!”
Rory Heap said: “Together with the Changing Places accessible toilet at the harbour, I really think the tide is turning for accessibility in Whitstable.”
Chairman of the Whitstable Harbour Board, Cllr Pat Todd, said: “This is a great initiative and one the harbour board was very keen to support. Craig and Rory have shown real passion and we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure the trial is a success.”
Anyone wanting to use one of the Beach Within Reach wheelchairs should be aware they are not powered or self-propelling. The user will need to have someone with them and be able to transfer into the beach wheelchairs.
Advance booking is required and people will have to complete release forms and also leave some significant items, such as their own chair, at the harbour office while they are using the beach wheelchair. If the person booking a chair does not turn up and makes no contact, the chairs will become available to other users after half an hour.
Beach Within Reach provides all-terrain wheelchairs to some beaches and surrounding countryside in and around Margate and Broadstairs.