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  • Samantha Lebron

Planning Makes Fun in the Sun Accessible for People With Disabilities

A young woman pointing a bow and arrow. She is wearing an eye patch, a white t-shirt, and is sitting in a wheelchair.
Samantha Lebron participating in adaptive sports.

Summer's here, which means more opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities. For those with disabilities this can be difficult at times due to accessibility.

I enjoy going to the beach during the summer months, but sand can be a physical challenge. Once my wheelchair touches sand my wheels begin to sink. This makes it impossible to push my wheelchair by myself and, needless to say, anyone helping me is going to get a workout. It usually takes two people to get my wheelchair through sand, one person to push and another person to lift the front wheels off the sand while pulling the wheelchair forward.

Mobi-mats have made beaches accessible to wheelchair users. A Mobi–mat is a roll-out accessibility mat that has a non-slip coating that can be placed over sand. This allows access to the shoreline without all the struggle. Some beaches also rent beach wheelchairs that have larger wheels than a conventional wheelchair that do not sink in the sand. As much as I would like to see all beaches have these mobility aids available, not all of them do. However more beaches are making them available after advocates voiced their concerns regarding accessibility -- but more advocacy is needed!

For your next beach trip some planning may be required. A quick call to see if a particular beach has beach wheelchairs and/or a Mobi-mats will save you the trouble of traveling to a beach and finding out they don’t have one available. At some locations a reservation is needed. Visitors to beaches in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area are in luck as these communities have invested in Mobi-mats.

If going to the beach is not your idea of the perfect summer activity, an alternative is adaptive recreation, which can include adaptive sports. Adaptive sports is a fun way to stay fit and enjoy the weather all year long. A sport can be modified to suit one’s ability despite limitations. Adaptive sporting equipment may be available for use at a recreation center. Local recreation centers are a great resource to find out what adaptive sport programs are available in your area.

Another resource is Move United, a nonprofit that has been offering adaptive sports opportunities for more than 65 years. Their mission is to make sure that everyone has equal access to sports. There is a search tool on their website to find locations that offer adaptive sports throughout the United States.

Adaptive sports has given me so much more than just a new skill. My health has improved greatly since I began participating in adaptive sports three years ago. For many physical therapy is either not covered by health insurance or is too expensive; but adaptive sports and other summer recreation activities can be affordable options. Getting involved in summer recreation activities offers one the opportunity to make new friends, gain new skills, and travel.

For summer to be truly inclusive, more advocacy is needed. If your community does not have an adaptive sports program or Mobi-mats and beach wheelchairs for rent at area shorelines, perhaps they need to hear from you or a self-advocacy group. Additionally, sharing information about activities that are accessible is a must. We'd love to hear about the accessible recreation activities in your community. Please share them under this article's post on the Florida Self-Advocacy Central Facebook page.

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