St Andrews students join forces with local campaigners to make beaches fully accessible

The nearest beach wheelchair is 120 miles away

We all love St Andrews. This magical town attracts thousands of visitors annually with its enchanting atmosphere, medieval history and breath-taking views of the sea. But have you thought about the fact that not everyone is able to enjoy the allure of the beach that we know and love?

Imagine not being able to walk on the sand. Imagine not being able to make sandcastles. Imagine not being able to join in during bonfires held at East Sands. Beaches in St. Andrews are inaccessible for many residents, students and visitors with disabilities, especially for those struggling with mobility difficulties.

Society is getting better at addressing the rights and requirements of disabled people, but a lot of people are still oblivious to the everyday barriers faced by some.

To make the St Andrews seaside equally accessible to everyone, the Hamish McHamish Foundation and Tourism St Andrews have now teamed up to set up a loan scheme which aims to provide beach wheelchairs for those in need. It will also help raise awareness of the issues facing elderly and disabled people and how excluded they can be from activities that the majority of us take for granted.

Kickstart, a group of volunteer students from the University of St Andrews, are devoted to draw attention to the importance of equal opportunities, and to the issue of the scarce availability of beach wheelchairs in St Andrews. Their mission is to raise awareness to the mobility difficulties people in wheelchairs face and they closely work with both, the Hamish McHamish Foundation and Tourism St Andrews.

The student group KickStart is organising a football game this Friday (20th April) at the University of St Andrews Sports Centre, to help people appreciate that many physical activities – in which most of us can participate without any obstacles – might just be an illusion for people with mobility difficulties. This is raising awareness for an issue that few know about – and few have done anything about.

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At present, there is only one beach wheelchair scheme in Scotland. It operates in North Berwick and, due to its success, it was recently extended to cover Portobello. It is a round trip of nearly 120 miles to Portobello and over 160 miles to North Berwick from St Andrews. There are other beach wheelchair schemes in numerous locations in England. A 70-year old friend, who used the scheme in North Berwick, explained, "It's the first time I've been able to get to the edge of the water in over 60 years".

To find out more information about their project, click here.

If you are interested in joining as a volunteer, Tourism St. Andrews invites you all to a meeting at the BID Meeting Room adjacent to the Byre Theatre on Thursday 19th April 2018 at 11am to discuss summer projects.