County councillors are calling for all-terrain beach wheelchairs like the one in Rosscarbery to be installed across the county. Photo: Cork County Council

Beach wheelchairs needed countywide

Providing all-terrain wheelchairs on Cork’s blue flag beaches is an opportunity for Cork County Council to lead the way in disability inclusion in Ireland.

That’s according to Independent Carrigaline Cllr Ben Dalton O'Sullivan who is one of a number of councillors calling for state-of-the-art Hippocampe beach wheelchairs to be implemented countywide.

The wheelchairs in question are an adapted version of the all-terrain wheelchair currently in place in Rosscarbery.

Last year, the Warren Strand beach wheelchair, which is operated by the local pitch and putt club, was used 27 times by 12 different users.

“If you have a child in a wheelchair, the only place you can go for a proper day out at the beach is the Warren Strand in Rosscarbery,” said Cllr Dalton O’Sullivan.

He was responding to a motion initially brought forward by East Cork Cllr Danielle Twomey.

The Sinn Féin councillor asked the council to undertake a feasibility study for the wheelchairs around the county.

Cllr Twomey noted that topography studies had previously deemed certain beaches unsuitable for the more basic chair model but highlighted that the adapted chair could counteract these issues.

“The Hippocampe chair is a versatile, multifunctional chair that is an adapted version of the chair we currently use in the Warren Strand. It is a hiking wheelchair that provides access to swimming, can be adapted to a kayak, allows for hand surfing and can be immersed in water,” she said.

Cllr Twomey added that the wheelchair can be adapted for both adults and children and can even be used on snow.

“This chair would allow visitors with special needs to access the beach and enjoy it in the same way that many able-bodied visitors do,” she said.

Commenting on the wheelchair currently in place in Rosscarbery, local Independent Cllr Paul Hayes said it has been a huge success.

Responding to Cllr Twomey’s motion, Director of Service, Municipal District Operations and Rural Development Niall Healy proposed to submit a funding request for feasibility studies at five beaches in the county.

However, he said issues such as storage, insurance and topographical assessment would need to be considered before further action is taken.

He also underlined that the 12 lifeguards provided to Cork beaches by the council are primarily focused on ensuring the safety of beachgoers and this must not be compromised by any ancillary activities.