Groomsport beach has taken delivery of the first phase of beach mobility equipment, making it the first inclusive beach in Ards and North Down.
Thanks to work carried out by the Mae Murray Foundation, in partnership with Ards and North Down Borough Council, Hippocampe all-terrain wheelchairs that can move easily over sand and offer support to both adults and children can now be pre-booked for use, free of charge.
This is just the start of the scheme which will be completed next year and will eventually include walking frames suited for beach use as well as temporary beach matting and a supported beach buggy for infants.
This innovative development in the Ards and North Down borough has been made possible thanks to funding received from Sport Northern Ireland (through the National Lottery) and the Department for Communities.
Jayne Moore, Capital Sports Development Officer, Sport NI said:“Sport Northern Ireland is pleased to have funded this project through money awarded by the Department for Communities, which was identified as a result of Ards and North Down Borough Council’s Community Planning process. The project will provide equipment to help people with disabilities to help them move freely around the beach and encourage people from the Ards and North Down area to get active and involved in physical activities with their families and carers.”
A Department for Communities spokesperson, said:“The Department is delighted to be part of this initiative. The specialist changing facilities and equipment will provide people with better access to Groomsport beach than had been previously possible. It will help to open up opportunities for those people with a disability to share new experiences with friends and family and make the most of the beach. It all helps to encourage a more active lifestyle and promote Active Living: No Limits.”
Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alderman Bill Keery, added:“I’m delighted that Ards and North Down Borough Council has supported the delivery of these vital services in partnership with the Mae Murray Foundation charity. Groomsport now has the first inclusive beach in the borough and the facilities available are first class.
“The all-terrain wheelchairs and ramp onto the beach make it accessible for everyone plus the nearby upgraded ‘Changing Places’ disabled toilet facilities are an excellent resource. This will encourage more people to visit Groomsport and enjoy a day at the seaside.”
Until now, beaches in the area have been off limits for families of mixed abilities due to a lack of appropriate equipment and facilities for those with additional needs. The new beach equipment loan scheme will enable mobility across the sand and up to the water’s edge.
The scheme in Groomsport is supported by onsite upgraded disabled toilet facilities that includes a ‘Changing Places’ toilet which offers both hoisting and adult-sized changing bench resources.
Alix Crawford, founder of the Mae Murray Foundation charity, whose daughter Talia has quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, said:“Following funding from Sport Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities, we are delighted to have partnered with Ards and North Down Borough Council to introduce the initial equipment to Groomsport and we’re looking forward to further equipment arriving.
“Groomsport Beach is the first beach that is fully accessible for all ages and abilities in the area and is one of just three beaches in Northern Ireland where we now offer these inclusive and free facilities.
“There are many people, young and old, who have never felt sand running through their fingers or experienced a walk on the beach on a summer’s day due to the inaccessibility of beaches. It’s been our privilege to develop processes to enable true participation.”
“This scheme is for all ages and I would encourage anyone who may be interested in using the equipment to go to our website to find out more.”
The loan scheme operates under advance booking conditions with full details, including days of operation, equipment options and other useful information, available from the Mae Murray Foundation’s website.
For further information, visit the Mae Murray Foundation charity’s website at: www.maemurrayfoundation.org.