Floating wheelchairs to be trialled in Portsmouth this year as part of wider accessibility bid
THE use of floating wheelchairs will be demonstrated in the city this summer as part of a wider bid to make the seafront more accessible to all.
Portsmouth City Council has pledged to explore a range of trials and designs to allow people with disabilities to enjoy the sea.
During a virtual full council meeting yesterday (July 21) city resident John Cullen presented his accessible beach for Pompey petition, which had been signed by more than 1,000 people calling on improvements to be made to Eastney Beach.
He said: 'It's important to think what do our disabled visitors want when they come to the seafront. If they can swim they will want to go in the water in the summer, just like able people can.
'And just like many able people they want to swim close to a lifeguard station as well as disabled changing huts, parking, toilet facilities and wheelchair hire.'
He explained that existing facilities were not considered good enough.
'The facilities at Eastney consist of two concrete ramps, one at each end of Eastney Beach each leading to rubber matting which stops in a "T" approximately halfway to the sea allowing the wheelchair user to get a closer view of the water than from the promenade,' he said.
The council's leisure boss, Councillor Steve Pitt, confirmed that options were currently being considered.
'It is really important that the city council puts resident's safety first, and that any access across the beach is safe, particularly for residents with health needs,' he said.
'We are aware of some trials this summer in England which we hope might identify potential solutions for similar shingle landscapes with an all-terrain wheelchair option from the United States.
'We will report back through the cabinet member for culture, leisure and economic development's portfolio decision meeting later this year with an update on what we have discovered from these trials.'
He added: 'We will have a demonstration of floating wheelchairs in early August.'
As previously reported it is also planned that a Shop Mobility scooter hire scheme will be trialled along the promenade in the future. Seafront accessibility will also be considered when the more detailed designs for the new Southsea sea defences are created.