SCOTLAND’S first wheelchair loan scheme is to launch in the Lothians after a £10,000 funding boost.
Wheelchairs specially designed for sand will be available for loan free of charge from the beach hut at North Berwick Harbour thanks to the National Lottery grant.
It is hoped a string of wheelchairs will be provided in Portobello and as far afield as Oban following a successful East Lothian roll-out.
The scheme comes after a consultation with more than 100 local families, including a “come and try” event.
Leaders at North Berwick’s Beach Wheelchair Project said they were delighted at news of the award.
Alison Brown, co-founder and chairwoman, said: “As a mum of a six-year-old boy with a physical disability I know first hand what a difference these wheelchairs can make.
“We had the opportunity to use one in France last year and this allowed us to move about freely rather than carrying him to one fixed spot on the beach.
“He was able to go right up to the shoreline, dabble with his net in rock pools and look for shells along the beach.”
She added: “I’m really looking forward to using the child’s beach wheelchair with my son so that he can meet his friends at the beach, something that we rarely did before.”
Secretary and co-founder Jacky Tagg added: “Since starting the project about a year ago, we’ve been blown away by the support we have had and we’ve met individuals who have never been on the beach, and families that no longer go to the seaside as they can’t go on to the beach together.
“This scheme will help to change that and our ultimate aim would be to replicate it in other parts of the country so more people can enjoy more of Scotland’s beautiful beaches.”
Lottery chiefs said they were happy to award the cash and predicted the scheme would change lives “locally and across the country”.
Maureen McGinn, chair of the Big Lottery Fund Scotland, said: “This will be Scotland’s first mainland beach wheelchair loan scheme that will help people to focus on their abilities, rather than their disability.
“I am delighted that our funding allows the project to be realised, and so will enable more people to enjoy quality time with their family at the beach.”
Beach wheelchairs tend to feature double-width wheels which work better on sand, as well as light frames less likely to burden users in wet conditions.
They are already available in a number of coastal centres elsewhere in the UK, including Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and Barry Island in Wales.