Ford makes the dream of beach access a reality


Ford Motor Company Fund is partnering with environmental organisation Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCDP) to make the dream of beach access a reality for people with disabilities.

As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, the Ford Fund has provided a grant of US$ 10 000 (R118 466) to assist WESSA’s innovative Blue Flag Amphibious Wheelchair Project. The funds will be used to purchase 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 Organization.

This accessible beach wheelchair makes it easier for wheelchair users to enjoy a day at the beach.

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 people with and without physical disabilities.

“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.”

The organisers who brought these accessible beach wheelchairs to South Africa smile broadly in the summer sun.

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 yet 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 shore to going into the water,” Schmidt concludes.

Ford designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles. It also provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions.

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