Hamilton

Accessibility mat means Hamilton man won't have to be carried to the beach by friends

Brian Campbell just wanted to play with his kids at the beach without having to rely on "burly" neighbours to get him there. Now, thanks to a pilot project from the city, the 44-year-old can access the sand with his wheelchair.

City says if mat is well-used more could be installed along the beach

Brian Campbell was looking for a way to get onto the beach in Hamilton without having to rely on friends and neighbours to haul his wheelchair onto the sand. (Supplied by Brian Campbell)

Brian Campbell just wanted to play with his kids at the beach without having to rely on "burly" friends and neighbours to get him there.

Now, thanks to his advocacy and a pilot project from the city, the 44-year-old can access the sand with his wheelchair.

A blue and black carpet of sorts stretches from a parking lot near the lift bridge.

It's called a "Mobi-mat" and made using materials including recycled polyester and cardboard packing.

The city says the accessibility mat was installed this month and Campbell said he was able to try it out for the first time Tuesday.

"It's great," said the father. "Once you get used to the resistance of the mat itself it's actually quite easy to push around on."

Campbell was hanging Christmas lights back in 2017 when he fell and broke his spine, paralyzing him from the waist down.

'A wonderful first step'

His family recently moved to the Beach Strip, but he quickly found their new home presented some barriers.

While his kids could run around in the sand, Campbell was restricted to the pathway.

"I've got two young kids and they're always wanting to play," he explained. "Being able to get out further on the beach was definitely a priority." 

Campbell's neighbours and friends would help lift him over the dunes, but he was looking for a more permanent solution.

Kara Bunn, Hamilton's manager of parks and cemeteries, said he approached the city with the idea of a mat.

Staff did some research of their own and Councillor Chad Collins supported the idea, so they purchased one and set it up in September.

"If the mat is successful and well used, the City would like to see more mats at other points along the beach," she wrote in an email to CBC.

Campbell took this picture of the mat Tuesday after trying it out for the first time. (Supplied by Brian Campbell)

Campbell said the mat is about two-kilometres from his home, a distance that makes for a bit of a long haul in a wheelchair, but he understands the need to place it near a parking lot to ensure it's accessible to as many people as possible.

The mat currently acts as a bit of a "hallway to nowhere," he noted, saying it would be good if another section perpendicular to the path down was installed so people with accessibility needs have somewhere to go.

There are a few other kinks to work out, including the somewhat steep grade heading toward the water, but he's hopefull that can be worked out through some grooming of the sand.

"It's a wonderful first step," Campbell said. "As long as we continue to progress in that direction, I can see the rest of the Beach Strip being fully accessible very soon."

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