"Can't remember when I was last at the water's edge"
WHO ARE WE?
The Hamish Foundation and Tourism St Andrews are working together to set up a loan scheme to provide beach wheelchairs in St Andrews.
Tourism St Andrews (TSA) is a local network of people and organisations that exists to promote tourism in St Andrews. It has only been in existence since 2016 but we are already making an impact. We recently organised a very successful Kelpie Maquettes installation outside the British Golf Museum in St Andrews between July and October. We worked with disability charity, PAMIS (Promoting a More Inclusive Society) to provide the Pamiloo, a mobile 'Changing Places' toilet to ensure that celebrations of our national saint's day in St Andrews promoted inclusion, participation and dignity and was accessible to all.
The Hamish Foundation (THF) is a charitable organisation set up to raise funds for the good of the town. We have already raised funds to help Home Start East Fife, and Tayside Children with Cancer and Leukaemia amongst others. We have also helped fund projects such as Santa's Grotto in partnership with Starbucks and Fife Council. In conjunction with Global Treasure Trails we have helped with the development of a family treasure trail for St Andrews. More recently, we have helped raise funds towards lighting up St Andrews for the winter celebrations.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
The beaches in St Andrews are difficult to access for elderly and disabled residents and visitors. Soft sand makes it impossible for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility to get onto the beach, far less onto the hard sand and down to the water's edge.
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.
St Andrews is a popular tourist destination, but more needs to be done to promote 'accessible tourism' for elderly and disabled visitors. Local businesses are trying to do more to attract the ‘Purple Pound’ - the potential spending power of disabled people. We want to provide a first class resource for elderly and disabled residents and visitors to the town.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
The Hamish Foundation and Tourism St Andrews are working in partnership to set up a loan scheme to provide paediatric and adult beach wheelchairs on local beaches in St Andrews. Beach wheelchairs are designed to be used on sand and uneven ground. These will enable anyone with mobility difficulties to access the beach more easily alongside their families, friends and carers instead of being restricted to the car park or to access on pavements only. Our project will ensure that everyone will be able to access the beach, making St Andrews a more inclusive place for local residents and tourists. 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.
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"
WHO WILL BENEFIT AND HOW?
Accessing the beach for elderly and disabled people, and particularly wheelchair users, will benefit them as well as their families and carers. For parents, especially those who have more than one child, the availability of a beach wheelchair will ensure that families can participate in a variety of activities, outings and quality family time on the beach. Elderly residents and visitors with mobility difficulties will also be able to get down to the water's edge and enjoy a stroll on the sand. A number of weddings have taken place on the beach at North Berwick. Their project has enabled some people to attend who would otherwise have been excluded without access to a chair or walker. We expect a similar outcome with our scheme.
A large number of tourist buses come to St Andrews throughout the year. This type of outing is particularly attractive to older people. Access to the beach will be a welcome bonus as the West Sands are world famous, thanks to the film, 'Chariots of Fife'. We plan to run a taster/ publicity day at the 'Chariots of Fife' race on 3rd June 2018.
To cater for more severely disabled people and those who cannot self-transfer we will provide a hoist for transfers. A 'Changing Places' toilet will allow those with a higher level of needs to spend a day at the beach without having to return home to address personal care needs. We will provide a storage container to keep the equipment secure. To enable us to assist those whose carers are not capable of pushing even the lightest person over sand, we aim to provide a motorised, all-terrain wheelchair by summer 2019.