Portstewart Strand is the next Inclusive Beach in Northern Ireland, thanks to work carried out by charity Mae Murray Foundation in partnership with National Trust. Until now this beach has been off limits for many with mobility, sensory and other needs, as sand and lack of appropriate toileting facilities can create barriers to participation. However, a beach equipment loan scheme is now available, together with disabled toilet to Changing Places standard. The free equipment loan scheme is operational every day – on an advance booking basis – through until the end of the bathing season and includes access to beach wheelchairs and beach walking frames.
Alix Crawford, founder of the charity, whose daughter Talia has quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, explains: “This progress has been made possible thanks to an amazing Crowdfunder campaign – supported by influencer Blossomingbirds. The funds raised were then generously matched by Sport NI Project Reboot Activate and National Emergency Trust. The Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership (CYPSP) also kindly contributed. National Trust received key funding from DAERA to create an essential Changing Places toilet which offers hoisting and adult changing bench facilities – ensuring dignified toileting for all.”
“No matter your age or perceived ability, you should be able to enjoy the thrill and beauty of our beaches across the province, and we are working hard to make that a reality. Portstewart Strand is now one of four beaches in Northern Ireland where we offer these wonderful facilities through partnership with beach operators.”
The loan scheme operates under advance booking conditions. Full details of equipment options, beach loan scheme schedules, advance booking requirements, Frequently Asked Questions and Terms and Conditions of Use can be found on the Mae Murray Foundation website: maemurrayfoundation.org
Alix set up the Mae Murray Foundation to help bring solutions that would enable all ages and abilities to take part together within society – recognising one another to be of equal and inseparable value. Creating inclusion on beaches is just one of many projects which the charity, which was named in memory of Alix’s late mother, is currently working on.
Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown said: “Everyone deserves the opportunity to walk, run or wheel along. By taking part in Sport NI’s Project Reboot: Activate the Mae Murray Foundation has made this a reality for many disabled people so they too can be enriched by experiencing the outdoors and being active.”