Life’s a beach with super chairs

Kathleen O’Sullivan and her daughter Hanna with sister Teresa, from Portmagee, testing the new devices on Ballinskelligs Beach.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

KERRY Council Council has made specially adapted beach wheelchairs available for people with disabilities at two Kerry beaches.

The Hippocampe wheelchairs are designed to make it easier for beach users with mobility restrictions to access and enjoy all the beach has to offer.
With the support of funding from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, two wheelchairs have been purchased and are now available at Inch and Ballinskelligs beaches. A third will shortly be made available at Ballyheigue with the ambition of further chairs being provided at other Kerry beaches in the years ahead.
The wheelchairs are designed for ease of movement on uneven ground and soft sand. Due to their balloon wheels, they cannot be self-propelled so all users will be required to bring someone with them to assist with transfer and pushing.
The service is free of charge but advance booking is essential. They can be booked in slots of up to three hours and users will be asked to complete a booking form and present a valid photo ID.

Teresa O’Sullivan (left), her sister Hanna O’Sullivan and mum Kathleen testing the specially adapted beach Hippocampe wheelchair with Moira Murrell, Chief Executive, Kerry County Council, Áine O’Sullivan, Disability Federation Ireland, Dessie Cronin, Ballinskelligs Community Development, James Flavin, lifeguard, Cllr John Sheahan, Mayor of Kerry, Sean Scally, Enable Ireland, Sheila O’Connell, John Breen, Director of Services, Kerry County Council, Barbara O’Shea, Café Cois Trá, where the Hippocampe can be accessed and Liz Scanlon.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

Director of Services with Kerry County Council, John Breen, said the wheelchairs have the approval and support of the Irish Wheelchair Association, Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland.

“The aim to is to allow wheelchair users to enjoy our wonderful beaches during the summer months and to ensure their carers can bring those they care for to the beach in a safe and enjoyable atmosphere,” he said.
Mr Breen acknowledged the support and assistance of local community operators who are taking responsibility for bookings
Cllr Terry O’Brien, service coordinator with the Irish Wheelchair Association, remarked: “A regular wheelchair would get stuck in the sand but these chairs are very ease to move and to manouevre on the sand. This is a great initiative in Kerry and, hopefully, we can see more of them available at Kerry beaches in the years ahead.”
The chairs are available through July and August from noon to 7pm Monday to Friday and from 11am to 7pm at weekends. To make a booking for Ballinskelligs contact 087-296 5874 or for Inch, call 086-266 3186,

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