The Ford Motor Company Fund has partnered with the environmental organisation Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and the National Centre of Persons with Disabilities (NCDP) in South Africa to make the dream of beach access a reality for people with mobility impairments.
As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, the Ford Fund has provided a grant of US$10 000 (R116 712*) to assist WESSA’s innovative Blue Flag Amphibious Wheelchair Project. The funds will be used to buy four specially designed wheelchairs that are capable of traversing soft beach sand and can be used in the water.
A total of 45 South African beaches were awarded the prized Blue Flag status for the 2016/17 season by WESSA, which is the national operator of the revered international Blue Flag eco-label for beaches, boats and marinas. The Blue Flag is a trusted symbol of quality that is awarded annually and is recognised by the World Tourism Organisation.
In addition to meeting stringent criteria for water quality, environmental management and education, the Blue Flag status includes a requirement for universal access to these pristine beaches – both for able-bodied and physically disabled persons.
“Although some beaches across South Africa allow for persons with disabilities to access the beach, they often struggle to get onto the beach itself,” explains Robert Slater of WESSA.
“WESSA is aiming to bridge this gap by providing four Blue Flag beaches across the country with amphibious wheelchairs that allow people who rely on mobility devices to get onto the beach and into the water,” he adds.
The organisation has set out to assist municipalities in making the selected Blue Flag beaches universally accessible, part of which includes providing the specially designed and manufactured amphibious wheelchairs at selected beaches across the country.
“This is another example of how mobility can improve the quality of life for people in many different ways,” said Mike Schmidt, director of Education and Global Community Development at the Ford Motor Company Fund.
“We’re happy to support this unique project that will allow more people to fully experience the joys of the beach – from travelling along the sandy shores to going into the water,” he concludes.
*According to the exchange rate at the time of publication