In Accessible Transportation, Accessible Travel, News & Blog, SCI BC Event

The only thing between you and the water is a funny plastic contraption. SCI BC Peer Tabassum Chagani reflects on her accessible beach chair experience—and shares why everyone should venture out of their comfort zone and into the waves.

 

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Tabassum and a volunteer try out the Beach Wheelchair at Jericho Beach

This past August, I participated in Spinal Cord Injury BC’s Multi Sports Day at Locarno Beach in Vancouver. I had been to the annual event, which gets people with SCI and related disabilities trying out a variety of sports, before. But this year, I made it into a real beach day.

Not only did I brave the sand, but the highlight of my day was actually going into the water in a beach chair! I remembered how much fun it had been to be in water when I was in Cuba, at a resort in Cayo Santa Maria. With the help of a life guard at the resort, I was actually able to sit on the sand with water up to my waist. And I was familiar with using a beach wheelchair, as I had used one at Galveston, Texas for my nephew’s beach wedding.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Vancouver Park Board currently has two beach wheelchairs—one at Jericho Beach and another at English Bay Beach—and nine new chairs across other city beaches in the coming year. The chairs require someone to push them, but can be rented out free of charge from the lifeguard stations. Learn more about beach wheelchairs and the newly-installed Mobi-Mat at the City of Vancouver website.

I didn’t care about the each chair’s bulky look, or that I needed the help of someone else to use it. (Though I did wonder how my petite-looking volunteer was going to control my chair…) I hoped I wouldn’t get into trouble, as there was no belt to secure me to the chair; I was not wearing a life vest either.

Still, I was excited about actually going in the water. Moving over the sand and into the ocean was a little unnerving at first. The waves were quite high and strong, and the wind was rough. But I knew that I was in good hands, and felt safe.

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The Beach Wheelchair is free to rent—but requires a little bit of assistance

Soon, I was having the ride of my life. It felt like a roller coaster ride, with the beach chair moving up and down, forward and backward with the rise and fall of waves. It was soothing and relaxing, exciting and exhilarating all at the same time. I felt triumphant at pushing my limits, and everyone around me seemed excited too.

“My advice to others wanting to try the chair? Enjoy and have fun as you live only once; be grateful and make the most of each moment that you heart is beating.”

By the time we came back, I was soaked up to my waist with loads of sand on my arms and legs. But it was all worth it. I had felt like a free bird, ready to soar high and touch the sky above. The excitement and exhilaration created a HIGH that could not be compare to any addiction.

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Tabassum takes on the "roller coaster" waves

Not surprisingly, I would definitely take the beach chair out again. Next time, I would like to wear a life jacket and use a proper belt to fasten me secure to the chair so that I am not afraid to be pulled away by strong waves. If I’m fastened with a seat belt, the light weight of the beach chair would make it buoyant and perhaps let it float…

As if this ride of my life wasn’t enough of a treat, I came back to shore to a bowl of Frozen Coconut Maple Ice Cream with homemade caramel topping and almonds. It felt like a well-deserved prize for being such a dare devil…

“Another great event organised by SCI BC! What an uplifting experience! Fresh air, fun activities and new friends with delicious BBQ to end the day!”

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A bit wet, but happy!

Want to share your own Adventure with SCI? Email mpankalla@sci-bc.ca.

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