Hastings woman calls for disabled access to our beaches

A woman from Hastings has called on the council to give wheelchair users and other people with disabilities access to our beaches.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 3:46 pm

Elaine Saunders, 44, she said the beaches in Hastings and St Leonards are ‘inaccessible for those with disabilities’ and therefore restricting people from experiencing the mental health benefits of being by the seaside.

Elaine said she noticed the problem when she became breathless when walking along the shingle at the top end of the beach.

She said: “I love the beach but it made me think that if I was struggling and I’m able bodied then others with disabilities must be totally unable to access the water.

Elaine Saunders pictured on Hastings seafront. SUS-210415-143745001
Elaine Saunders pictured on Hastings seafront. SUS-210415-143745001

“The beaches in St Leonards and Hastings are inaccessible for those with disabilities which means these people are unable to get the mental health benefits of being by the seaside, and with Covid our mental health has never been more important.

“Now with lockdown restrictions easing, a lot of people who have been trapped indoors are looking to get outside but people with disabilities are restricted from accessing one of the best areas to enjoy the outdoors.”

Elaine has always loved the sea and participated in a number of watersports but in 2020 she was diagnosed with heart failure. She said the diagnosis made her think about those who struggle to access the sea after finding it harder to get down to the water herself.

As a result, she researched how other areas help people with disabilities to access the sea.

Elaine added: “In Folkestone, a board walk has been installed that allows wheelchair users to get close to the water and to the Harbour Arm. And in New Zealand they have mats that they roll out during the day and are taken up at night. That could help solve the issue of the shingle drifting with the tide. The other alternative is beach buggies but they are very expensive.

“Since starting the petition, I’ve received lots of messages from people who have been unable to access the sea because of an injury. I’d like to encourage people to sign it because you never know, it could make all the difference. It only takes an accident or injury for people to be unable to access the water.

“Hastings is one of most accepting places I’ve ever been and I just think that in 2021 it’s incredible that there is still no access and this needs to change.”

If you would like to sign Elaine’s petition, click here.

A spokesman for Hastings Borough Council said: “We used to have an accessible boardwalk but it was removed in 2019 because a member of the public having a serious accident on it. We are now looking at short term and longer term ways of improving access to the beach and the sea, and are currently in discussions with engineers to establish how we move forward.”