Making Progress in Beach Accessibility
In recent years, more beaches around the country have tried to become accessible, adding walkways over the sand and wheelchairs to navigate both sand and water.
San Luis Reservoir SRA - Beach Access Route, Photo: California State Parks
“There have been numerous steps taken to make state park beaches more accessible,” said Elyssa Finkelstein, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, one of many agencies in many states working to improve beach access. But the project can be challenging.
While added features now help many people enjoy the sea and the sand, barriers still remain. Accessible walkways often don’t reach all the way to the water during low tides because that would mean they would be covered by water during high tides, which could lead to damage or unsafe conditions, said Jeremy Buzzell, chief of accessibility program support at the National Parks Service.
“We make our best efforts, but beach access can be challenging,” Buzzell said. “It’s very hard to install permanent structures that hold up to weather and tides.”
Montana de Oro SP - Beach Access Route, Photo: California State Parks
Beach wheelchairs can also be helpful, but are offered in limited number only during certain hours and only at a few specific locations because they must be properly stored and maintained by staff members.
Meanwhile, public expectations are growing for beaches and other recreation areas to be open to those with disabilities, said Sherril York, executive director of the National Center on Accessibility at Indiana University, which studies and promotes accessibility at parks and recreation sites. This is partly because since the ADA was passed in 1990, so many public places have become accessible, York explained.
“Because of that history, there is a higher expectation by people with disabilities that the places they want to go and the things they want to do are accessible,” York said.
“The return of wounded veterans from our most recent conflicts in the Middle East has also increased the need for greater accessibility. These young disabled veterans want to go back and do the recreational activities they did before their injury, thus adding to the need to provide accessible opportunities.”
Below are some beaches we found in each region that really stand out for ease of accessibility.