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Balloon wheelchairs at Chennai’s Marina beach is the big draw this year on International Day of Disabled Persons

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Greater Chennai Corporation along with NGO’s recently did a trial
test run of balloon wheelchairs at Marina beach ahead of International
Disabilities Day. Every year, on 3 December, temporary ramps are installed on
the beach so that wheelchair users can check out the beautiful Marina beach
with their family and friends. This year, activists are working on creating
permanent ramps so that wheelchair users can fully experience beach round the

3 December is International Disabilities Day. Members and
activists from the community are gearing up for fun and awareness activities
on the big day. Every year, Greater Chennai Corporation
along with the help of NGO’s ensures that temporary wheelchair
ramps are placed at Marina beach for wheelchair users to indulge in the
beauty of the world famous beach. This year too, corporation has tied up with
disability rights activists to procure wheelchair with balloon wheels, first
of its kind in the state. These balloon wheelchairs will make mobility on the
sand easier so that wheelchair users can enjoy the beach and waters. A trial
test run for these balloon wheelchairs were already conducted last weekend at
Marina beach.

Chennai has some of the best beaches in India. One amongst them is Marina,
which is reportedly world’s second longest beach. But people with
disabilities are unable to access the beach round the year since there are no
exclusive facilities. This year, disability rights activists are working on
installing permanent ramps.

Smita Sadasivam, Member, Disability Rights Alliance, has
been working closely with GCC to make Marina wheelchair friendly.

When we approached GCC to make the beach accessible, we asked for a pathway
to walk across the sand and also access to the waters by beach wheelchairs.
Separate proposals for beach wheelchairs were evolved by GCC accordingly
for procurement of the same. They also asked us for a model beach
wheelchair which we had submitted earlier after which they provided us
pictures of few beach wheelchairs. We were asked to select a couple of them
which we had done last year as well. Last week, these wheelchairs were
tested on sand-Smita Sadasivam, Member, Disability Rights

In 2017, Disability Rights Alliance had written to the Corporation
Commissioner asking for a permanent solution to accessibility woes at beaches
in the city. This included installation of wheelchair ramps and also signage
for visually impaired people to get to the waters. But officials have not yet
taken a positive step.

Satish Kumar, a wheelchair user from Ektha Foundation was
also part of the trial test run of balloon wheelchairs at Marina beach last
week. “We looked into what all modifications are needed for the wheelchairs.
It even had seat belts to ensure that we could move around on the sand
safely. It is easier to be pushed as well. Since it is impossible to use
normal wheelchairs on sands, we hope that these balloon wheelchairs will make
beach experience more fun for us wheelchair users”, he says.

Spending time with family and friends on a beach side is something everyone
would love to indulge in. Chennai based organisations that works towards
empowering disabled people has been trying to introduce facilities at the
earliest. But apathy and insensitivity of corporation officials towards
creating a permanent solution is the biggest barrier.

Also Read: Madras High Court directs implementation of 3% job quota for
disabled people, activists unhappy


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