I’m back from a fun week at the beach with the family. Nothing like a family vacation to break all the great habits you’ve worked so hard to instill in yourself and your children.
I’m sorry I don’t have another karaoke video to drop on you, or anything. I know I’ve gained some new readers recently, and you’re probably all waiting for some funny HA HA up in here, but instead, I’m going to subject you to an education on getting your physically disabled family member onto the beach and into the surf. However, rest assured, if you make it to the bottom, this is going to be the most kick ass piece of writing ever composed on the subject. Plus, you never know when you might need this info so I suggest you stick around.
As 99 percent of my readers know, my two youngest sons, due to all over low muscle tone, require power wheelchairs for mobility. Powerchairs are great for many things, including damaging antique pianos and running over toes repeatedly, but they are not great in the sand. For a family like ours that loves the beach, trying to figure out how to get everyone out to the surf has been an ongoing challenge. In coming up with a solution, I’ve found lots of options. However, many people are still unaware of the choices available to them or their family members, thus the need for this post.
If your child is still young, a jogging stroller is the way to go. Teddy is still transported this way. I figure he’s good for another year or so before he is too tall. The large wheels make it relatively easy to roll across the beach. This model is similar to what we have: large metal and rubber wheels with a fixed front tire. We’ve made tons of trips to the beach with it since Fulton was one, and it’s held up well.
If you’re ordering a medical stroller for your young child and have the option to get jogging wheels, try to get them. I wish we would have done so with Fulton’s stroller. I don’t think insurance would’ve covered them, but it would’ve made things a whole lot easier once he outgrew the jogging stroller. Here’s a pic of his medical stroller getting sand and saltwater all up in the wheels; not recommended! Not only has the sand and salt made it difficult to use the stroller, period, (hello rust on expensive parts) but dragging this beast across the sand is like something out of a CrossFit workout and is likely to kill you.
Now here’s a picture of the jogging stroller type base we could’ve gotten. The downside to this base is I’m not sure how easy it would be to tie down in our van given the length.
Another option is a modified powerchair, and WOW are there some cool companies out there doing just that. This model by Action Trackchair will not only get you onto the beach like a BOSS but you can get a gun rack on it for hunting. A GUN RACK! (Updated to add; we’ve meet people in OCNJ who use this model chair to get around on the beach and boardwalk with ease. However, it’s not going to get you in very many stores.)
Hotshot Products makes a Beachcruzr powerchair with balloon wheels. (The company also offers modification kits to outfit wheelchairs with balloon wheels.)
The only downside to such products is insurance will probably not cover either model, and in the event of something breaking, you’ll have to tackle repairs on your own. But it’s almost worth it because how awesome would you look driving one of these????
There are also beach wheelchairs (sometimes called surf chairs) which are basically over-priced PVC deck chairs.
Except this one which is not made from PVC but still costs $1,600
Some beaches will have them for free to loan or if you search, you can find places that will rent them to you for the length of your stay. We tried using one while in Ocean City, however as the lifeguard station only had one, we were told we could use it to transport Fulton to the beach but then we had to bring it back.
As you can see, the chair is adult sized and doesn’t offer much support for a child like Fulton who has little upper body control. Child sized beach chairs are available (cough*overpriced*cough) or there are some creative parents out there making them and sharing the plans online. Once again, insurance won’t cover these items.
While all of the above options will get you across the sand, you will not be able to get more than your toes wet. Even the beach chair Fulton is sitting in is not to be taken more than six inches into the ocean. (However, you can buy similarly styled chairs that work in swimming pools.) Experiencing the waves will require a transfer from the chair to the lap of a loved one.
Step 3; repeat and step 4 is ice your back after a long day at the water’s edge. Tony and I know that all this lifting isn’t a long-term solution so we’ve got our eyes on another type of beach chair.
This is a beach chair that moves from sand and into the water! However, given the price tag and the fact that we can’t find one to try out, we’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger and buy, but I think the day is coming when we’ll just have to suck it up.
UPDATED: Thanks to Bonnie and her fundraiser, the Mantoans will be getting a Mobi-Chair! WAHOO!!!
Although there’s always a bit of sticker shock involved when shopping for specialty items like these, it’s reassuring to know there are companies making products to ensure my kids, and anyone with a disability, get to experience as much of the world as possible. If you or a loved one are feeling stuck inside, do some research and if necessary, hold a fundraiser to get the equipment you need. I know families whose children ride in a wagon with their battery-powered medical equipment to experience the salt air in their face (usually a garden cart or wagon with balloon wheels). It is hard work, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice. And in the back of my mind I know that someday, maybe beach outings will be unsafe and impossible which makes me more determined to make them happen now.
If I missed a product, please share a link in the comments! And for the record, I’m not associated with any of these companies I just want to help other families find a product that can help them.