Free Beach Wheelchairs Keep Summer Fun Rolling

Matt, Helen (standing) and Alison (seated) Schwab enjoy the beach at Crystal Cove with the help of a beach wheelchair that rolls on the sand. PHOTO BY JIM SCHWAB

Matt, Helen (standing) and Alison (seated) Schwab enjoy the beach at Crystal Cove with the help of a beach wheelchair that rolls on the sand. PHOTO BY JIM SCHWAB

By Christina Elston

Last spring, Jim Schwab and his family traveled to Southern California from their home in Atlanta, and some friends recommended a visit to Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach. Schwab and his wife, Helen, have 15-year-old twins, Matt and Alison, and Alison has cerebral palsy. They were delighted to find that her need for a wheelchair wouldn’t keep her off the beach.

“During our visit, Alison was able to get up close and see the anemones, crabs, starfish, urchins, etc., easily, and we all enjoyed our walk down the beach together,” Schwab wrote in an email to the Crystal Cove Alliance. The nonprofit was instrumental in providing the beach wheelchair – equipped with large, wide wheels that roll across the sand without sinking – that helped Alison enjoy her time on the shore. And the chairs are available at beaches all along the coast for visitors to borrow free of charge.

“Crystal Cove has a lot of beach wheelchairs, and they have become sort of a destination for disabled beachgoers,” says Sylvie Lee, Program Coordinator for the California Coastal Commission. You can find out about Crystal Cove’s beach wheelchairs by calling 949-494-3539, and the Coastal Commission offers an online guide to Beach Wheelchairs (www.coastal.ca.gov/access/beach-wheelchairs.html) where you can get information about additional beaches.

A father and daughter explore the beach in Monterey. PHOTO BY SYLVIE LEE

A father and daughter explore the beach in Monterey. PHOTO BY SYLVIE LEE

L.A. County beaches offering the chairs include:

  • Cabrillo Beach, San Pedro, 310-372-2162
  • Torrance County Beach, Torrance, 310-372-2162
  • Hermosa City Beach, 310-372-2162
  • Manhattan Beach, 310-372-2162
  • El Porto Beach, Manhattan Beach, 310-372-2162
  • Dockweiler State Beach, Playa del Rey, 310-372-2162
  • Mother’s Beach, Marina del Rey, 310-394-3261
  • Santa Monica Beach at Perry’s Café, 400 Ocean Front Walk, 310-452-2399
  • Will Rogers State Beach, Pacific Palisades, 310-394-3261
  • Topanga Beach, Malibu, 310-394-3261
  • Zuma Beach County Park, Malibu, 310-457-2525
  • Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, 310-457-4665

All locations, according to Lee, have different numbers of chairs, but the average is one or two per site. Policies regarding whether chairs can be reserved in advance, and how long each visitor can borrow a chair, also vary from beach to beach, so call ahead for details.

Christina Elston is editor of L.A. Parent.

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