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Beach wheelchairs improve access to Lyme Regis beach

THE pleasure and freedom of Lyme’s sandy beach is now more accessible than ever thanks to two new beach wheelchairs.

Oli Apps at the launch of the beach wheelchairs at Lyme RegisLyme Regis Town Council has bought the wheelchairs in an effort to improve accessibility in the town.

The all-terrain wheelchairs can be hired for free by residents and visitors who have trouble getting onto the beach.

The council agreed to spend £6,000 on the equipment to ensure disabled people had the opportunity to enjoy the sea and sand at Lyme Regis.

The wheelchairs, which are two different types to suit various needs, are available to hire from this week, at no cost to the user.

They were launched on Monday when seven-year-old Oli Apps, from Uplyme, and Vicci Stocqueler, from Lyme Regis, had the opportunity to take them onto the beach and to the water’s edge for the first time.

Oli, a pupil at Mountjoy School in Bridport, has never walked and has been in specialist buggies or a wheelchair since he was born.

Mum Kelly Apps said the beach wheelchair would make a huge difference to their family, including Oli’s five-year-old sister Madi.

Kelly said: “The wheelchair will make the beach much more accessible and allow us to be a normal family.

“Madi wants to play with her brother, she’s really proud of him, so it means we can come down to the beach as a family.

“I love coming to the beach but it’s not been fun in recent years because of the limitations.

“The wheelchair will give Oli the opportunity to have an experience that an able-bodied person can have.”

For Vicci Stocqueler, 49, it was the first time in 12 years she was able to go to the water’s edge and paddle in the sea due to her limited mobility.

She said: “I don’t go to the beach that often because it’s too difficult, but I really would love to.

“I used to swim all year round, but just to have a paddle would be lovely.

“The wheelchair would even be good for older people who aren’t in a wheelchair but aren’t very steady on their feet.

“It will give people the confidence to venture to the edge of the water.”

Cllr Richard Doney, vice-chairman of the council’s Tourism, Community and Publicity Committee, is spearheading the council’s efforts to improve accessibility in the town.

He said: “I am delighted that we are able to offer this free service. It will enable our visitors and residents who find it difficult to get on the beach, the opportunity to enjoy one of Lyme's key attractions.

"This is the first step in an aspiration to make Lyme more accessible to people with disabilities and impairments. We shall never get rid of Lyme's hills but there are many other things we can and should do.

“People with disabilities want to know that they won't be embarrassed or inconvenienced if they come to Lyme, so this is what we should be aiming to ensure.”

The wheelchairs can be booked in advance through the tourist information centre and collected from the Jubilee Pavilion information point on the seafront.

They can also be hired on the day if they have not been pre-booked.

To pre-book, contact the tourist information centre on 01297 442138 or email lymeregis.tic@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk.

For more information about the wheelchairs, including a booking form and terms and conditions, as well as general information about accessibility in Lyme Regis, visit www.lymeregis.org/accessibility.