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Beaches for all: Park Board launches beach mat pilot project at English Bay

August 9 2017 Mobi-Mat allows those with mobility challenges to enjoy the ocean

“One of our core values is access for all to our parks and recreation facilities,” said Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe. “This mat is a significant addition to our existing adaptive recreation programs.”

Beach mats - Mobi Mats

The Vancouver Park Board rolled out the city’s first accessibility mat today at English Bay as a pilot project to allow people with walkers, wheelchairs and scooters to enjoy a day at the beach. 

The Mobi-Mat is a portable and durable rollout mat, which provides a walkway across the sand just above the high tide line.

“One of our core values is access for all to our parks and recreation facilities,” said Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe. “This mat is a significant addition to our existing adaptive recreation programs.”

Learn more about accessible beaches

Plans for future expansion

Over the next few months, staff will take feedback from the community and assess the performance of the beach mat. If successful, the program will be expanded with additional mats installed in more beach-front locations next summer. 

“I just want to be like everyone else and go to the beach with my friends,” said Jacques Courteau, Co-Chair of City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee.  Courteau assisted the Park Board in testing the beach mats yesterday and applauds the initiative. 

Beach wheelchairs available

In addition to the mats, the Park Board has two beach wheelchairs with inflatable tires that can roll on sand. These chairs, which require an attendant to push, can be used at most city beaches.

Reserve a beach wheelchair, free of charge, by calling Kits Lifeguard Tower at 604-738-8535 between the Victoria Day and Labour Day long weekends from 11:30am to 8:30pm. Nine more of these chairs are on order for the 2018 summer season.

Recreation for all

The Park Board offers many adapted and integrated recreational activities for children, youth, adults, and seniors with mobility challenges. These activities include aquatic lifts, wheelchairs and assisted entries at pools and ice sleds at rinks.

In addition, the Board provides free access to facilities for attendants who support persons with disabilities to swim, skate, exercise in fitness centres, participate in recreation programs and visit parks. Support is defined as assistance of a physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual or sensory nature to ensure that the patron with the disability is able to participate.  

Find information on adapted and integrated programs

Every year the Board is doing more to make our facilities, parks and beaches more accessible. Last year, the Board opened the South-East False Creek paddling centre. It provides Vancouver’s paddling community with a permanent home and  has ramps to allow paddlers with mobility challenges easy access to their boats. 

Accessible floating dock for sailors

The Park Board is also working with the Disabled Sailing Association of BC on the renewal of the pier in Jericho Beach Park. The renewal would provide an accessible floating dock for use by sailors of all ages and levels of mobility. The Board is developing a conceptual design for a renewed pier and accessible floating docks.

When completed, the accessible dock will accommodate at least 15 sailboats for the Association’s adaptive sailing program. It currently operates eight specially designed sailboats at Jericho Beach and hosts between 800-1000 sailing experiences at Jericho Sailing Centre each year.

The new facility will expand its capacity to provide safe and dignified access to sailors with mobility challenges. Public consultation on the new Jericho pier and floating dock begins next month.  

Accessible spaces benefit Vancouver residents

Current estimates are that about 15% of Vancouver residents have some form of physical disability or mobility restriction. This includes people using wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and strollers.

When you add family and friends, approximately 50% of Vancouver residents are affected by barriers to accessibility.