Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Back to the beach, thanks to ‘wheelchairs’

The 15 ‘swimming wheelchairs’ were unveiled by Dubai Municipality at Al Mamzar and Jumeirah beaches to help old people, those with special needs and even adults who can’t swim enjoy the water safely.
Floating wheelchairs introduced in Dubai have proved a hit with the elderly and disabled. Courtesy Dubai Municipality
Floating wheelchairs introduced in Dubai have proved a hit with the elderly and disabled. Courtesy Dubai Municipality

DUBAI // Floating wheelchairs are providing the full beach experience for those previously land-bound.

Dubai Municipality has unveiled 15 “swimming wheelchairs” at Al Mamzar and Jumeirah beaches to help the elderly, those with special needs and even adults who cannot swim to enjoy the water safely.

“This is excellent. It feels so good to be in the sea again after all these years,” said Abdulaziz Al Qassab, 70, an Emirati amputee. “I wish we can do this every day and exercise with these chairs.”

Mr Al Qassab said the experience brought back memories of playing and working on Dubai’s beaches.

“When we were young we built pontoons and raced them across the water,” the former abra captain said.

“I just wish they would add a way to help us move on our own without anyone pushing us – paddles or something.”

Taleb Julfar, the municipality’s director of public parks and horticulture department, said the chairs cost Dh9,000 each and were imported from France.

“Access to the beach has been the biggest request from centres for special needs and elderly care,” he said. “They were asking us for a way to come to the beach. We found these chairs and decided to go one step further and allow them to enjoy swimming as well.”

The chairs are free to use, but prior booking may be required on the city’s toll-free number, 800900.

“It has been maybe 20 years since I last swam in the sea,” said Essa Habib, 60, a retired policeman who found the chairs very comfortable. “This was very nice. It made us all remember our youth. The sea was always an important part of our lives growing up. .”

Lifeguards will be assigned to people using the chairs who will stay with them at all times.

Nasser Lootah, the municipality’s director general, said the chairs were part of Dubai’s goal to be one of the most friendly cities in the world for people with special needs by 2020

malkhan@thenational.ae

Updated: June 24, 2014 04:00 AM

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