The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), with funding from the Ford Motor Company Fund, has donated amphibious wheelchairs to four coastal municipalities in South Africa. The aim is to make South African Blue Flag beaches universally accessible to all persons with disabilities through improved infrastructure and amenities.

This initiative has been launched by WESSA – implementer of the international Blue Flag programme in South Africa – in partnership with the National Council for Persons with Disabilities. The amphibious wheelchairs were supplied by Blue Flag partner, AccessRec and have a unique design that allows them to move easily on the sand. They can also enter and float in the sea.

The City of Cape Town, Overstrand, Bitou and Kouga municipalities were identified as recipients of the chairs, based on their existing disabled access to beaches and on their commitment to making their Blue Flag beaches usable for all people.

The sponsored chairs were presented to the selected municipalities at an event held on Muizenberg Beach in Cape Town on 26 February 2018, and will be freely available for disabled beachgoers to use at Blue Flag beaches, to be determined by the recipient municipalities.

‘This is yet another example of how mobility can improve the quality of life for people in many different ways. 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,’ said Mike Schmidt, director of education and global community development, Ford Motor Company Fund.

Speaking at the event, WESSA national coastal coordinator, Robert Slater said, ‘We are grateful to have the ongoing support of the Ford Wildlife Foundation for WESSA’s national coastal conservation and education programmes. Everyone has a right to enjoy South Africa’s beautiful coastline and through this new initiative with the foundation, financially supported by the Ford Motor Company Fund, we are improving the accessibility to beaches for persons with disabilities.’

WESSA is working to improve access to all Blue Flag beaches and it is hoped that future partnerships will allow them to procure additional amphibious wheelchairs for more beaches in South Africa.

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