Beach near Stanhope, PEI
Photo by Wikimedia Commons: Rick McCharles

P.E.I. national park makes it easier for wheelchair users to enjoy the beach

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For the most part, sand and saltwater are two of the best things about the beach, but for wheelchair users, they’re huge barriers. But a beach in P.E.I. has taken measures to make the beach a much more accessible.

Stanhope Beach now boasts accessibility mats (mobi-mats) which will allow wheelchairs users to wheel over the sand and also has also has two beach wheelchairs that are capable of going in the water.

“It’s amazing, it’s a hard feeling to explain,” Daniel Savoie told the CBC. Savoie has a spinal cord injury and has used a wheelchair for 30 years, and in all that time has been unable to enjoy the beach. “I would be up on top of the shore and just looking around and seeing people enjoy themselves,” Savoie said, describing his typical beach experience. “Now I’m part of everybody else, it’s almost like a dream come true.”

A wheelchair designed for use on sand
Stanhope Beach offers two wheelchairs similar to this one, capable of navigating on sand and in the surf.

Brackley helped to create the proposal that led Parks Canada to introduce the new accessibility measures, after he and his wife saw beach wheelchairs on a Caribbean vacation. Brackley teamed up with the Spinal Cord Injury Association of P.E.I. and Access Advior P.E.I. to create a proposal for more accessible beaches, which they submitted to Parks Canada.

“We believe we are the first at Parks Canada to be using the accessibility mats so we’re very excited,” said Kimberlee Trainor of Parks Canada. She said that Stanhope Beach is a bit of a “pilot project” and that hopefully other beaches will also get accessibility updates.

There are other parks in Canada that use the mats, including Wasaga Beach at Georgian Bay, Ontario, and Long Beach in Tofino, BC. To see more accessible beaches, check out the full list at Access Now.