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What is a Beach Wheelchair?

A beach wheelchair is a special type of wheelchair that is designed to help people with physical disabilities move over sand. Standard wheelchair wheels aren’t meant for sand and normally sink. This makes a fun beach day simply impossible. To keep from sinking, beach wheelchair wheels are very wide and large, increasing the surface area. Ideally, they also have good traction. There are two main types of beach wheelchairs: power (battery powered wheels) and manual (no power).

A man wearing a red rash guard sits in his power beach wheelchair and a man on the right sits in his manual beach chair with all-terrain tires at the beach. There is a waveski on the ground between them.

Power Beach Wheelchairs

Experiencing the beach and ocean with family and friends is a wonderful thing. If you’re someone who uses a wheelchair for mobility, it can be very difficult or impossible to cross the sand without specialized equipment such as a pathway or beach chair. Motorized or power beach wheelchairs are a great option for accessing the beach independently. They have battery powered wheels and a way for the user to steer (like a joystick). There are a few things to consider when looking into purchasing or using a motorized beach wheelchair.

A man uses a power beach chair with large wheels on sand at the beach.

Power beach chairs are often very expensive and require ongoing maintenance, so be prepared. The battery life must always be checked when leaving the house so you don’t run out of power while out and about. This is just like any powered wheelchair. Also, it may be tempting to go close to the water or the beach showers, but almost no power beach wheelchair can get splashed or wet to protect the battery. Overall, just be aware of your battery life and any water and you should have a great beach day!

Manual Beach Wheelchairs

Manual beach wheelchairs are chairs with large wheels that require either the user or someone else to push the person over the sand. They come in a variety of styles and seating positions. Some even come with an umbrella holder for shade! A person’s specific abilities and preferences will guide the decision on exactly which style chair to get. For example, if you want something that allows you to lean back and have your feet straight out in long-sitting, there’s a chair for you. There are even versions that can go straight into the water! This style requires you to have one or two people pushing the chair, however.

A man sits in long-sitting in a beach wheelchair with large yellow arm rests with two women pushing him at the beach.

There are only a few manual beach wheelchairs that allow the user to propel themselves, and this requires a lot of upper body strength. The Freedom Grit chair is one example that is designed for outdoor terrain. A few more things to consider with manual chairs is the cost, height for transfers, and the ability to transport in your car.

Wheelchair Mat for the Beach

If you aren’t loving the cost or functionality of a beach wheelchair, there is another option for beach access! A portable beach mat is a great solution that allows you to stay in the comfort and safety of your own wheelchair. Sometimes transferring into a beach wheelchair simply isn’t safe or practical. A beach mat provides a stable walkway that allows you to access the beach with family and friends. Plus, a beach mat can be used by multiple people at once!

Envision this scenario: you are going to your favorite local beach on a hot summer day with your family.  You already have the portable access mat stored in the trunk of your car, so you’re ready to go. When you arrive, a family member carries the beach access mat from the parking lot to the sand. As you wheel up to the boardwalk, the pathway is already laid out on the sand for you! Your 2 kids run behind you as you wheel out to your ideal hang out spot. The umbrella gets set up and you transfer to the beach blanket to catch some rays and watch your kids build a sand castle. When needed, you can wheel yourself to the beach bathrooms because your pathway is still set up. You notice other people using the pathway, but it doesn’t bother you one bit- you’re happy to share accessibility for all!

  A woman with long curly brown hair using a wheelchair is in the foreground with a man and woman unfolding a grey Beach Trax pathway on the sand at the beach during sunset in the background.  A Beach Trax pathway over sand at the beach with a few people walking, standing, or sitting in a wheelchair on it.

Folding Beach Mat

There are a few kinds of beach mats, but the most ideal for a family is one that folds up and can even be checked as luggage on a plane! This type of folding portable beach access mat is the creation of 2 occupational therapists in California. Access Trax is a true innovation in the outdoor accessibility space, allowing everyone to have access at their fingertips. To learn more about Access Trax, check out the product here. To learn 6 common uses for a portable access mat, check out this informative article.

Beach Trax Unfolding by Kelly

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