My Soul Recovered at Last with Thanks to Sea the Change

Disability Equality Scotland CEO, Lyn Pornaro, shares a summer-themed blog post on her experiences of beach accessibility.

The beach! Crashing waves, soft sand, wind blowing in your face. If you are anything like me, you love this image.  Even more so you love being at the beach.  I always find that it clears my head and refreshes my soul when I spend time there. I think that came from my childhood.  Being a Fifer, we occasionally went on the bus to Kinghorn beach with a neighbour during the summer holidays.  I loved that time.  I never wanted to leave.

When I was nine, we moved to South Africa and oh my goodness.  Right across one road from where we stayed was a glorious beach that went on for miles and miles and miles (ok just 3 miles but it seems longer when I was nine).

The Atlantic waves crashed daily and it was so soothing a sound.

Now you may wonder, if I love the beach so much, why do I stay in the countryside.  That’s another story for another time.

Yet I regularly visited the beach – on holidays, for a day out, just to go for a walk etc.  Bliss.

Except, I hadn’t been on an actual beach for the last 2 years.  Why you wonder?

Accessibility, or lack of it!

Due to illness, I now use a wheelchair.  Need I say more.   Our coast has not necessarily caught up with accessibility.

Over the past few years like when I was in Dunbar on holiday earlier this month, I accepted that I could see the sea but couldn’t go onto the beach to feel the sand on my feet, be at the crashing waves, play with my son digging holes and building sandcastles.  I could hear the waves but just couldn’t get there.

Two years goes by, and my head needed clearing and my soul restoring in a way that I hadn’t been able to re-create. I was faced with not knowing when, if ever, I would experience that blissful image I described earlier.

I was scrolling social media, as you do, and came across the organisation Sea The Change which has not only beach wheelchairs, beach mats but had also extended the walk way and accessibility to the café, toilets, beach.  This is at Coldingham Beach, and it was only 20 minutes away from where we were.

You can imagine, quick smart, I booked a wheelchair for the Friday morning.  A bit apprehensive as to whether I would or wouldn’t get on the beach.  I wondered if I would be restricted when I was there.

All my fears were taken away – Alice and her volunteers are so friendly and supportive.  What a laugh we had (especially my hubby trying to push me up a mound of sand!).

I not only got on the beach, I got to the water.  We had a stroll/wheel along the beach.  I played with my son.  I chatted with others on the beach.  I got to watch children laughing and playing.

I had my soul refreshed again!

I know that we have some Access Panels who have organised for something similar at their local beaches.  But it does make you wonder, what can we do at our coastline to improve accessibility for all disabled people. I now know that I can book a wheelchair and have my head cleared and it isn’t too far away from where I stay.  What about others?

A huge thank you to Sea the Change for all the work they do, and to others around the country doing similar activities.  How can we learn them?  How can we share in their work and support them?  What can we do to make things a little bit better for others as well as ourselves.