CHENNAI : As the parent of a 29-year-old with cerebral palsy, it was never an option for Vaideki V to make a trip to the beach along with her daughter. “As my daughter Harini got older, it became more difficult for us to push her wheelchair, and especially when its sandy, it’s unimaginable,” she says. But before she even reached the beach, there was always the problem of transferring her either from an autorickshaw or a car to the wheelchair, which made it mandatory for her to be accompanied by someone who can carry Harini.
But Tuesday was different, just as it was the year before. In what has almost become an annual ritual, the Marina Beach becomes accessible for a day to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. A temporary ramp made of plywood was laid out from the promenade for wheelchairs to make their way to the water and volunteers to help them move — an arrangement that is available until the end of day, today.
The initiative was organised by Vidya Sagar and the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA) India in association with the Greater Chennai Corporation. While the two-day initiative was fun, a permanent access to the city’s beaches has been a long-standing demand among them.
“For something to work, it has to be inclusive. We are not asking for a permanent ramp just because it will benefit the differently-abled residents and tourists; it will also be used by senior citizens and anyone who doesn’t like to get sand in their shoes,” shares Sathish Kumar R of the DRA. Antony Firman Alexander, also of the DRA, said that the goal was to achieve permanent accessibility as soon as possible.
This year, the City Corporation has procured four beach wheelchairs made of light tyres, making them easier to manoeuvre in the sand. “We are in talks with the City Corporation to construct a small room where these wheelchairs may be stored after the event and may be used by differently-abled visitors all throughout the year,” says Sathish.