Wed 6 Jun 18
A joint initiative between the St Andrews Local Tourism Association (Tourism St Andrews) and local charity The Hamish McHamish Foundation to provide Beach Wheelchairs was officially launched as part of the annual Chariots of Fire Beach Race held on Sunday 3rd June. The specially adapted wheelchairs were in operation on the day of the event with a number of local residents and visitors enjoying the special experience the wheelchairs offer. The public will now be able to book the Beach Wheelchairs in advance of their planned visit to St Andrews by calling a centralised telephone number or by using an online booking system via the Hamish McHamish Foundation website.
Debbie MacCallum (a trustee of The Hamish McHamish Foundation and the current Chair of Tourism St Andrews) said: “What a day it was for St Andrews as we became a more inclusive and accessible place to live and visit. With the launch of the beach wheelchairs came joy and tears and the day held so many special moments. The Chariots of Fire Beach Race is always a special event for us on the beach annually and we were welcomed so warmly to enjoy it with the beach wheelchairs in operation and the official launch of our project. A big thank you to the Chariots Race Team 2018 for their support. A small group of volunteers has made this project come to fruition, but it would never have happened without the support of our community.
“It’s so very special that we have now made our wonderful West Sands beach a more inclusive and welcoming place to ensure that everybody can enjoy a great family day out. We can give access to the wonderful sensory experience of a walk on the beach, to sit at the water’s edge and to enjoy the sounds, the smell and the beauty we have to offer. The beach wheelchairs are free to use and available at weekends only to start with, although once we have our centre on the beach - which we also heard we received permission for yesterday - they will be available more readily.”
Karen Williamson of Falkirk, who recently had an accident at home which caused a leg injury, was determined to complete the race. Assisted by her pusher, she completed the adult race in one of the beach wheelchairs and said: “What a fabulous time we had. It really opened our eyes up to how much people really miss out on by not being able to do something as simple as get on to a beach. Thank you to everyone for their part in making it such a memorable day”.
Catherine Milligan said: "My son Noah has autism and uses a special needs buggy to get him from 'A' to 'B'. We found it impossible to watch his twin brother and father running in the recent Chariots race on the beach due to not being able to see the beach from the roadside, and I cannot push his buggy on the sand. We were delighted to then have the opportunity to try out a beach wheelchair and Noah absolutely loved it. We will certainly be back to use them during our day visits to the beach. What a difference this will mean to visitors and residents of St. Andrews and will ensure that everyone gets the chance to enjoy the beach and everything it has to offer”.
Kitty Walker, who was asked by the beach race team to officially airhorn the start of the races, said: “I so love the outdoors, especially by the seaside. Having beach wheelchairs in St Andrews will allow me to get onto the West Sands whenever I like".
A reception was hosted by The Old Course Hotel after the finish of the race to which a number of the organising committee shared the background to the project, explained the on-going operational logistics and said thanks to the individuals, businesses and organisations that have supported the initiative to date.