These Wheelchairs Are Helping Disabled Travelers Enjoy the Beach

Jennifer Allen, 39, an Elizabethtown, Pa., mother whose son Jaden, 7, was diagnosed with spina bifida in 2017 and uses a wheelchair, lists more than 50 beaches that provide wheelchairs from New York to Florida on her website, Wonders Within Reach. “When we received our son’s diagnosis, we had to find new ways to travel and get outdoors,” Ms. Allen said. “We weren’t able to find a lot of resources to help us do that, especially with children. I decided to share as we travel and learn, so that other parents can be inspired and enabled to get out and explore with their kids with disabilities.”

On a trip to Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Va., Ms. Allen was pleased to find a paved boardwalk and a surf wheelchair. “They had all the things we needed, but we didn’t know beforehand because they didn’t have it available online,” she said.

Despite all the new measures and the growing number of beaches with wheelchairs — from Texas to New York to the U.S. Virgin Islands — some places remain an “accessibility nightmare,” Ms. Allen said, citing North Carolina. This summer, her family is planning a trip to the Outer Banks in that state, where she said, “There is less parking, fewer accessible access points and fewer beach wheelchairs available on loan.”

The family will rent a beach wheelchair to be delivered to an oceanfront rental home, but, she said, there will be still a major obstacle: “It sounds like we’ll still have some work to do to get the chair up over the dunes.”

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