Sierra beach accessible

You’re on White Rock beach. It’s hot and sunny. You put on your sunglasses and slap on the sunscreen. You sit back on the luscious green grass to capture the rays. You can only do that for so long.  As you observe the buzz of people frolicking and having fun in the water, you grow antsy and long to move about. You get up and walk toward the beach. You reach the dry sand and allow it to exfoliate your bare feet. Then, you dare walking into the cold water of Semiahmoo Bay.

You hear my narrative, look back and say, “Hey! That’s quite the banal scenario. Can’t you come up with a better story?”

Okay. You’re on White Rock beach on a hot and sunny day. You put on your sunglasses and slap on the sunscreen. You turn your fair-skinned face toward the sun while sitting back comfortably. This posture satisfies you for a while until you observe the buzz of people playing on the sandy beach and splashing in the refreshing water. You long to join them, but you know that you’ve arrived to your furthest point. You face the reality of your mobility issues and your inability to navigate the sand and water.

You hear my narrative, look back and say, “That’s quite the banal scenario. The Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo (SAS) have a much better story, you know.”

SAS are a group of people who have particular interests in promoting inclusiveness in the community and bettering the lives of people with disabilities. SAS meet every month to deliberate about important issues and take action. As part of the group’s objectives to make the world accessible to everyone, SAS members initiated a project to make White Rock beach accessible to people who have mobility issues so they can experience the sand and water and participate in fun activities with their family and friends as opposed to longingly observe from the fringes. “People in wheelchairs have a hard time going on the beach,” says Sierra Dean, self-advocate.  “The new chair will let them have fun on the beach like everyone else”.  Alex Magnussen, SAS Chair, concurs by saying, “No one should spend their whole life saying they’ve never been on the sand at the beach.”

SAS researched various wheelchair designs and price points and identified a few options that would be suitable for their project. After developing a budget including the cost of acquiring the wheelchairs and keeping them in good repair, SAS concluded they needed $2,000 to launch the project. Therefore, they embarked on a fundraising campaign by selling lightly worn clothing donated to them  and hanging flower baskets and by making an email appeal to Semiahmoo House Society’s constituents. Thanks to their tenacity and the generosity of the public, SAS met their fundraising goal within a month!

The good deeds of the community didn’t stop there. SAS and their beach accessible wheelchair project were on a karmic course with the intervention of a community member and a local business.

As they were getting ready to purchase the first wheelchair, they were approached by a benefactor who offered to make an in-kind donation. SAS enthusiastically accepted the gift that would contribute to increase the inventory of beach accessible wheelchairs and make them available to yet more people.  “What an incredible gift, he has given us,” says Jill Glennie, SAS advisor. “This will go a long way to meet the objectives of the self-advocates.”

Having procured their first wheelchair, SAS had to figure out a convenient place to store their inventory and a transactional system to deploy it. Being resourceful people, they tapped into their network and landed at Feral Boardsports on East Beach where the owners immediately agreed to the agency. “As they learned about the project, the founder and his wife got 100% on board,” says Jill.

Much work still needs to be done until the beach accessible wheelchair can be offered to the public, but the self-advocates are determined to get the project to fruition. “We have a few matters to consider,” says Jill, “but the project will be going ahead. In fact, we will be promoting it on Canada Day near the tourism kiosk at White Rock Beach. Everyone is welcome to come and talk to us and learn all about it.”

All righty, here’s the new scenario. You’re on White Rock beach. It’s a beautiful day. You no longer sit on the periphery. You’re steering your wheelchair toward your friends who are enjoying a game in the sand and water. As you join in the merriment, you high five one of them who hands you a Frisbee.

At that moment, you look back at me and give both thumbs up to the creativity of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo, the contributions of generous donors, the collaborations of the owners of Feral Boardsports and a community that came together.

By Louise Tremblay – The Semiahmoo Foundation

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

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