Sunderland to get beach-accessible wheelchairs so more people can better enjoy our stunning coast
Wheelchair users will be able to better enjoy Sunderland’s stunning coastline thanks to beach-accessible wheelchairs and other equipment which will be available at the seafront.
The Blue Flag-awarded Roker Beach is one of the top tourist attractions in Sunderland, with thousands taking to the sand throughout the year.
Now it is being opened up to even more visitors, after Sunderland City Council’s North Area Committee approved £24,975 for the “Beach Access for Roker Beach project”.
This aims to improve accessibility and offer equipment for people in wheelchairs or those with other mobility issues.
Those who need them will be able to borrow adapted beach-accessible wheelchairs from a site along the seafront.
Councillor Denny Wilson, Chair of the North Area Committee, said: “Roker Beach is one of the highlights of our city, and everyone should feel that they can enjoy experiencing our seafront no matter their physical ability.
“The work that Beach Access North East and the Steering Group members are providing through this new equipment will be life-changing for so many of our residents who have struggled with mobility on the sand in the past.
Sunderland City Council continues to work to provide equal opportunities for all residents, and this is just one part of that journey.”
Lorna Moore From Beach Access North East said: “Beach Access North East currently offers free loan of beach access equipment at Newbiggin, Blyth, Whitley Bay and South Shields, with ambitions to expand the service to several other venues on the North East Coast.
"This venture at Roker is the most ambitious yet. All our services are free and run by volunteers and we would love to hear from anyone who would like to be involved.”
She added: “Beach Access North East is proud to be working with Sunderland City Council’s North Area Committee and Sunderland Beach Access Steering Group to provide support for this essential service at Roker Beach.
Making beaches more accessible and inclusive has become an important topic regionally and nationally.
It is difficult to use a standard wheelchair on sand, and ramp access to beaches can be an issue.
Initiatives to offer solutions to beach access, support and interest groups have grown, as well as the development of specific wheelchairs that can be used.
The project will be led by a Voluntary Community Sector organisation called Beach Access North East (BANE), who will be supported by the Sunderland Beach Access Steering Group including the Sunderland Parent Carer Forum, Headway Wearside, disability group representatives and involvement from Sunderland Community Action Group in order to add to the project with accessible cycling provision.
By Summer 2021, this project aims to initially install a fully clad container with 2 Hippocampe Wheelchairs and associated equipment.
This will be located next to the Marine Activity Centre on Marine Walk, near the Changing Places facility and assessed by the group as suitable for access to the beach.
Supported by the Sunderland Beach Access Steering Group, BANE,will also provide booking systems, volunteer organisation, staff training and maintenance.
Funding applications and fundraising events will also be delivered to keep the project sustainable in the future.
If the scheme receives a high demand once running, BANE has access to other wheelchairs which could potentially be loaned to the project.
Maureen Morris speaking on behalf of Beach Access North East (Sunderland) said: “The steering group members are delighted by the financial support received from Sunderland City Council which we feel demonstrates the City’s commitment to inclusivity.
“We are also grateful to BANE for their help and support by bring this project into the BANE family which will make booking an accessible wheelchair at Sunderland an easy process. Like all the BANE sites it will be manned entirely by volunteers and we will be delighted to hear from anyone who is interested in helping at this or any of BANE’s other sites.”