Nova Scotia

Inverness Beach hopes to become a leader in accessibility

The Inverness Development Association has plans to buy wheelchair mats, beach chairs and walkers, and floating chairs to allow people with mobility challenges better access to the sand and water.

Inverness Development Association plans to buy assistive equipment, including floating wheelchairs

The Inverness Development Association plans to buy two floating wheelchairs for Inverness Beach. (Provided by Deschamps Mats Systems Inc.)

A group in Inverness, N.S., is hoping to make its local beach the most accessible beach in Atlantic Canada.

The Inverness Development Association recently completed repairs to the boardwalk on Inverness Beach.

"As we were doing our boardwalk project, we felt that stairs and ramps are just not enough. We need to bring people right back down onto the sand, into the ocean," IDA vice-president Rose Mary MacDonald said Wednesday in an interview with Cape Breton's Information Morning.

To that end, the group now wants to buy assistive beach equipment.

Floating wheelchairs

It has been in contact with Deschamps Mat Systems, a New Jersey-based company that makes a product called the Mobi-Mat.

"These mats are made from recycled plastic bottles. And the mats will roll out right from the edge of the ramp right down to the water," said MacDonald.

The Inverness Development Association also has plans to buy wheelchair mats, beach chairs and walkers. (CBC)

The group also hopes to buy two of the company's floating beach wheelchairs, called Mobi-chairs.

"We're going to be able to have persons that may want to actually get out into the water and float... So we're quite excited about having that type of service at the Inverness Beach."

MacDonald believes Inverness Beach will be the first in Atlantic Canada to have such equipment.

$60K price tag

The group is also hoping to purchase two non-floating, rubber-tired beach wheelchairs and two beach walkers. And it plans to renovate the washrooms and beach hut to make them accessible.

The total cost of the project is about $60,000. MacDonald says the IDA has $15,000, and she's hopeful the municipality and province will provide the rest.

The project is being framed as a pilot for the rest of the island, said Callum MacQuarrie, co-chair of the Inverness County accessibility committee, and a board member with the Canadian Paraplegic Association.

Callum MacQuarrie, co-chair of the Inverness County accessibility committee, shown on a Mobi-Mat. (Submitted by Callum MacQuarrie)

MacQuarrie broke his neck diving at the Inverness breakwater when he was 22. He's "ecstatic" at the prospect of getting in the ocean again without having to be carried by his friends.

"If the beach works out the way we want it to work out this year, it would be like night and day. It'd be a whole new breath of fresh air for me," said MacQuarrie.

With Nova Scotia's aging population, many visitors to the beach have mobility challenges, said MacDonald.

"And we felt our boardwalk, it's a gem to our community and our people. We take pride in it, and our beach," she said. "And by making it more accessible for our own people and for tourists alike, it's going to be something that's going to build a stronger, more inclusive community."

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton