A beachside community cafe has taken delivery of a specially-designed all-terrain wheelchair which will open up one of the north-east’s favourite beauty spots to people with disabilities.
The Sand Bothy at Balmedie has initiated a scheme to make it easier for people with disabilities to explore the golden sands and shoreline at Balmedie beach.
Working with PAMIS (Promoting A More Inclusive Society) and Aberdeenshire Council, Belhelvie Community Trust, which runs the facility, have been raising funds to purchase several Hippocampe wheelchairs.
The £3,200 chair – which was assembled by staff at the weekend – has balloon wheels for traversing even soft sand and a corrosion-resistant frame to withstand sea salt.
The idea for the rental service was suggested by Aberdeen mum Laura Henry, whose 13-year-old son Ben has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Mrs Henry saw a similar initiative in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
She said: “When you go on to the really soft sand, you just can’t get the wheelchair through it.
“Some people need to take oxygen tanks and other equipment, and the weight of the chair is so heavy there’s absolutely no way you can push it over sand.
“It’s really sad as a ‘regular’ family wouldn’t think twice about this.
“But other families who have able-bodied children with them can’t all go to the beach either – you have to have two sections where one stays away from the water as they can’t go on the sand.
“So a chair like this is a small thing which can make a big difference.
“Some disabled people are life-limited, meaning they and their families try to make every day and every experience a fun one for all the family to share.
“They make happy memories for when times aren’t so good.”
The Sandy Bothy is continuing to raise funds to purchase further Hippocampe wheelchairs, and aims to raise enough for a fleet of chairs.
Belhelvie Community Trust secretary Rosie Nicol said: “There are a lot of problems here because the beach has moving sand dunes, and is not a static beach like others.
“So we have got to take this on board and see if we can help.”
Donations to the campaign can be made at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hippo-chair.