Accessibility November 27, 2019
Balloon wheelchairs at Chennai’s Marina beach is the big draw this year on International Day of Disabled Persons
Greater Chennai Corporation along with NGO’s recently did a trial test run of balloon wheelchairs at Marina beach ahead of International Disabilities Day. Every year, on 3 December, temporary ramps are installed on the beach so that wheelchair users can check out the beautiful Marina beach with their family and friends. This year, activists are working on creating permanent ramps so that wheelchair users can fully experience beach round the year.
3 December is International Disabilities Day. Members and activists from the community are gearing up for fun and awareness activities on the big day. Every year, Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) along with the help of NGO’s ensures that temporary wheelchair ramps are placed at Marina beach for wheelchair users to indulge in the beauty of the world famous beach. This year too, corporation has tied up with disability rights activists to procure wheelchair with balloon wheels, first of its kind in the state. These balloon wheelchairs will make mobility on the sand easier so that wheelchair users can enjoy the beach and waters. A trial test run for these balloon wheelchairs were already conducted last weekend at Marina beach.
Chennai has some of the best beaches in India. One amongst them is Marina, which is reportedly world’s second longest beach. But people with disabilities are unable to access the beach round the year since there are no exclusive facilities. This year, disability rights activists are working on installing permanent ramps.
Smita Sadasivam, Member, Disability Rights Alliance, has been working closely with GCC to make Marina wheelchair friendly.
When we approached GCC to make the beach accessible, we asked for a pathway to walk across the sand and also access to the waters by beach wheelchairs. Separate proposals for beach wheelchairs were evolved by GCC accordingly for procurement of the same. They also asked us for a model beach wheelchair which we had submitted earlier after which they provided us pictures of few beach wheelchairs. We were asked to select a couple of them which we had done last year as well. Last week, these wheelchairs were tested on sand-Smita Sadasivam, Member, Disability Rights Alliance.
In 2017, Disability Rights Alliance had written to the Corporation Commissioner asking for a permanent solution to accessibility woes at beaches in the city. This included installation of wheelchair ramps and also signage for visually impaired people to get to the waters. But officials have not yet taken a positive step.
Satish Kumar, a wheelchair user from Ektha Foundation was also part of the trial test run of balloon wheelchairs at Marina beach last week. “We looked into what all modifications are needed for the wheelchairs. It even had seat belts to ensure that we could move around on the sand safely. It is easier to be pushed as well. Since it is impossible to use normal wheelchairs on sands, we hope that these balloon wheelchairs will make beach experience more fun for us wheelchair users”, he says.
Spending time with family and friends on a beach side is something everyone would love to indulge in. Chennai based organisations that works towards empowering disabled people has been trying to introduce facilities at the earliest. But apathy and insensitivity of corporation officials towards creating a permanent solution is the biggest barrier.