For Wheelchair Users, Sandy Beaches Pose Challenges

Keara Engle avatar

by Keara Engle |

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Most people love the beach. Whether it’s your first time going to the beach or not, seaside vacations, and traveling in general, are almost always enjoyable.

But what if you can’t get to the ocean once you’re there? Disabled individuals must find other ways to make it through the sand if they can’t walk. 

Typical wheelchairs and strollers just aren’t meant to navigate through sand. The wheels sink, making it impossible to move. While there are some options to get around this, they’re pretty limited. 

If the person is small enough, they can be carried from place to place. This is what works for my son, Cayden, and me for now. However, I know that one day Cayden, who was diagnosed with infantile-onset Pompe disease three years ago, will be too big for me to carry. This makes me nervous. He’s already 3 and weighs 30 pounds. I’m not sure how much longer we have until he gets too heavy for me to carry.

Some beaches have special surfaces that extend over parts of the sand. This makes it possible for wheelchair users to move closer to the water, or even into it if the surface reaches that far. While this is a great option, it’s not available at every beach. 

Another option is a beach wheelchair. They have large wheels that can make it through the sand easily. They typically can be rented, but prices vary, and not everyone can afford them. If you can, they’re a great option.

The downside is that they’re typically for adults. The chairs are pretty big and bulky, which isn’t ideal for a fairly small disabled child.

All-terrain wheelchairs are another option, but most people don’t use them in their everyday lives. Insurance typically only covers one mobility device, such as a wheelchair or adapted stroller, every few years. So, if you want an all-terrain wheelchair in addition to your normal wheelchair, you may have to pay for it out of pocket. Again, not everyone will be able to afford this.

Sometimes you have to get creative. For Cayden’s first beach trip last week, I used a sled to get him through the sand. Sleds are typically used in the snow, but anything can have more than one purpose!

The type we used has a seat with a high back built into it. This helped Cayden sit upright as I pulled him along in the sand. Cayden can sit fairly well, but he can’t stand or walk due to his low muscle tone, a symptom of Pompe disease

All in all, there are a few ways to navigate through sand if you are a wheelchair user. You may need to get creative and think outside of the box, which is OK! Even though the options are limited, I’m thankful there are at least a few. 


Note: Pompe Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pompe Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Pompe disease.


Julie Garfield avatar

Julie Garfield

Another great article Keara. I have been on accessible beaches in Spain and to get close to the water safely, is an amazing feeling. These special pathways should be available on every beach xx


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