Beach wheelchairs are not used in Cork as the council will not approve storage

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Two beach wheelchairs bought in Cork through a community fundraiser last year have not been used since they were purchased as there is no place available to store them safely overnight.

The Clonakilty Camogie Club has raised over €5,000 through an online fundraising effort in 2021 to provide the wheelchairs to enable better access to Inchydoney Beach in West Cork for people with disabilities . The appeal came following the successful introduction of a beach wheelchair on nearby Warren Beach in Rosscarbery.

Despite pleas from local Independent Councilor Paul Hayes who currently stores wheelchairs in his garage, Cork County Council officials will not allow a wheelchair to be stored in the lifeguard hut on the beach overnight .

Cllr Hayes said: “All I’m suggesting to Inchydoney is that we have a similar setup to Rosscarbery which seems to be working very well. Inchydoney Lodge & Spa have kindly agreed to take care of the booking process.

According to Cork County Council, planning permission would be required for a wheelchair storage unit at Inchydoney and they are unwilling to allow a single wheelchair to be stored in the lifeguard hut on the beach during the night.

Evie Evans, vice president of the Clonakilty Access Group, who is a wheelchair user herself, said the group had raised the issue on several occasions.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. We have a similar situation with local playground access where keys are needed and staff are often not there. These beach wheelchairs are available in many other places in Europe and no complicated booking system is required.

She added: “It’s not really complicated but there doesn’t seem to be the will to make it happen. If more people who make decisions knew what it’s like to try to access facilities to people with disabilities, I think we would see more things happening.

A County Cork spokesman told the Irish Examiner that there are a number of issues which must be satisfactorily addressed before the beach wheelchair can be used.

They said the topography should be suitable, local volunteers should be suitably trained and willing to commit to being available to provide on-site support, and the wheelchair should be of a type suitable for the location.

They added that a reservation system allowing users to book in advance is also a requirement, as are appropriate storage facilities “with controlled access for wheelchair entry and exit” as well as cover. appropriate insurance for the location, attendants and users.

They added: ‘Cork County Council is in the process of commissioning a report for five beaches on disabled beach access. This should identify current limitations and improvements that can be put in place to increase access.

Mr Hayes said: ‘There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in what the council is saying. They just seem to be dragging their feet on this one, there are no issues at the Warren, and they only seem to be putting obstacles in the way of getting the program up and running at Inchydoney.

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