Disability Friendly Beach Resorts, Wheel Chair Accessible Beaches
How and where to plan an accessible family beach vacation.
Carol Tabas has taken her four children—including her oldest son, Chet, 24, who has a severe developmental disability—on summer beach vacations for years. She’s rented a house along the New Jersey shore, traveled to Florida and island-hopped on cruises. On one trip to the Florida Keys, Tabas and her kids lived in their bathing suits for a week, basking by the pool and swimming with dolphins. “The most wonderful thing about it,” Tabas remembers, “was that there were a few other families there with special needs kids. We felt so comfortable.”
On the beach, Tabas does worry about the ocean. But swimming is one of Chet’s favorite things to do, so she sits him in a low beach chair in the water and lets him feel the gentle waves lapping and the sand under his fingers. In calmer waters at a Vermont lake, Tabas put two inner tubes around him, tied a rope to them, and let him balance in the water. A beach vacation, she says, “is just such a healthy, wholesome vacation. Everybody feels clean and relaxed, even though they’re exhausted and dirty.”
Any family can have a successful beach vacation with their special needs children. So, before you head out to the beach this summer, here’s how to make sure each one of your little ones has maximum fun.
Beach and Boardwalk
Research before you go. You’ll want to know how you’re going to get onto the beach, how you’re going to get around once on the sand and how to deal with the water. Renting a beach house may be the best way to experience the beach, and it allows you the freedom to manage your child’s schedule. The beach house on the Jersey shore was ideal for Tabas and her family, and after visiting for a few summers in a row, the community knew them and the lifeguards had the beach wheelchairs ready upon their arrival.
Every beach comes with its unique attractions, not the least of which is the bustling boardwalk. Some boardwalk rides may not be accessible, and when it’s in the middle of the summer season, the throngs of people, flashing lights and loud arcade noises may be overwhelming for some kids. If you’re intent on visiting a boardwalk this summer, Virginia Beach has a wildly popular and very accessible three-mile boardwalk (www.vbfun.com).
Towns and Resorts
No matter how far from home you wander, there’s a beach resort for your family. San Diego’s beaches are more accessible than ever. According to accessible travel magazine Emerging Horizons, San Diego recently received a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy to add power wheelchairs to the Coronado City Beach, the Silver Strand State Beach and the Oceanside City Beach that are free for visitors with disabilities. The electric beach wheelchairs are a step up from the traditional beach wheelchairs, which can be difficult to move over sand, and they allow kids using power wheelchairs more independence. Accessible San Diego’s Web site offers resources for planning your vacation to the area (www.accesssandiego.org).
Along the New Jersey shore, Beach Haven has an accessible beach and playground. In south Jersey, Avalon Beach has accessible beach wheelchairs available (www.avalonbeach.com). While you’re in south Jersey, head over to Delaware and visit Rehoboth Beach’s bustling boardwalk, complete with ramps to the beach and “Beach Wheels” wheelchair availability (www.beach-fun.com).