Seaside days out for all lined up for all after Roker beach wheelchair project scoops £25,000 start up funding

Everyone will like to be beside the seaside after a Sunderland project was awarded £25,000 to launch plans for a beach wheelchair hub.

By Fiona Thompson
Friday, 18th June 2021, 4:55 am

A base will be set up at Roker for a variety of chairs which will be free to lend, tapping into a network along the North East coast to widen the range of equipment available.

The plans are being spearheaded by Sunderland Parent Carer Forum, Headway Wearside and Steve Wilkinson, who is known as WheelchairSteve and campaigns to make life easier and more fun for those who need to use a chair to get about.

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Thomas Lawton, Maureen Morris and Kelly Lawton accompany Hannah Lawton as she puts one of the beach accessible wheelchairs to the test at Roker.

They have teamed up with Beach Access North East (BANE) and hope to have it running by the autumn, with nearby businesses pledging their support to the volunteers and will ensure people will be able to get hold of a chair.

Initial costs and the expense of two chairs will be helped by £24,975 from Sunderland City Council’s North Area Committee, with the organisers saying the authority is among the first in the region to pledge support for the project – with donations welcome.

A trial day was hailed a success, with Roker deemed the ideal location as it has an accessible toilet, ramps on to the sand, cafes and bars and parking.

Thomas, Kelly and Hannah Lawton used one of the chairs to see what it was like when down on the sand at Roker.

Maureen Morris, a member of the forum, said: “I think it’s about not being separate, having something that everyone else has and being able to get down onto the beach on a day out.

"It’s hard for families to be able to access the beach and just to be able to do the simple things, like make a sandcastle or have a plodge.

"People of all ages will be able to come down and care homes can bring their residents, perhaps someone who hasn’t been able to get onto the beach for 40 years or someone who is having end of life care and it’s on their bucket list to go to the beach one last time.

"It will also be good for grandparents who want to spend some time with their grandchildren on the beach and for the whole family.”

Among the businesses offering support is Lily Bows florist in Washington and Houghton, which is aiming to raise £3,500 for the project.

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