New Hartlepool project lets wheelchair uses enjoy town's beaches for the first time
Wheelchair users in Hartlepool can enjoy being by the seaside thanks to a new project.
The town has joined charity Beach Access North East (BANE) to provide free loans of specially adapted wheelchairs for elderly and disabled people.
The new Hartlepool branch has been formed by Seaton Councillor James Black and Matthew Anderson, whose 17-year-old son Kieran Anderson-Gaye has Pitt-Hopkins syndrome.
It is in response to requests they saw on social media from town residents.
Matthew said: “Everyone was saying in Hartlepool we need this. Everyone needs the chance to go on the beach.
“It is for the elderly, disabled; the more the merrier.”
Among the first to try out the chairs, which can also go in the sea, was 95-year-old Joan Robinson.
Joan, who is a resident of Queens Meadow Care Home and had trouble walking, said: “I think they’re great. I only wish I was 20 years younger!
“It is donkey’s years since I have been on the beach. I’ve enjoyed just trying it out.”
Also testing out the chairs at Seaton Carew was Jean McLean, aged 92, and her daughter Judith Winspear.
Judith said: “Mam always sits on the bench and has her fish and chips but I can’t push her wheelchair and she can’t walk on the sand.
“To be able to come on the beach like this and watch her grandkids is brilliant.”
Councillor Black stressed the equipment can also be used elsewhere in town including the Headland and places like Summerhill Country Park.
He said: “We have now got two beach wheelchairs which we will be able to hire out to the whole of Hartlepool eventually.
“We have got people who haven’t been on the beach for 20 or 30 years. The smiles on people’s faces tell the story.”
The Hartlepool branch is currently looking for donations and volunteers to help make the project a success.
Hartlepool’s new People’s Community Project has given them £300 to get started.
To loan one of the chairs call Beach Access North East on 0300 9994444 and select the option for Hartlepool.
To donate visit the group’s fundraising page at www.givey.com