Sand, Sun, and Saltwater Taffy
From North to South, most New Jerseyans agree that the place to be this summer is the Jersey shore. For some, it can even be a second home. There isn’t a weekend that you won’t see them enjoying the Atlantic or strolling the boardwalk with family and friends. The question we ask ourselves here at Easterseals New Jersey, however, is how accessible is the beach? Can people with disabilities enjoy all our beautiful beaches have to offer?
We’re happy to report the answer is YES! That being said, you should still take the time to prepare yourselves to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. In this post, we’ll share with you some tips that will help you make the most out of your beach going experience.
Beach Accessibility: Where and How?
Before you attend any beach, be sure to check and see what accommodations they provide for people with disabilities and special needs. They may provide specialized surf wheelchairs that are easier to push through the sand. Others have beach access ramps and rubber mats that lead down across the sand, allowing easy access for wheelchairs. In some cases, the lifeguards will even push individuals all the way down to the shore and back again. Most beaches have a contact number that you can call and make arrangements in advance.
This may sound strange, but check to see if they have public restrooms. Not all beaches on the Jersey Shore have access to public restrooms. These are beaches that may allow access to the general public but are operated more like private beaches and therefore do not have all of the amenities one might expect. For those that do have public restrooms and showers, be sure to identify where these are located and if they contain ADA compliant restrooms. Wherever you set up on the sand, make sure you have convenient access to these facilities.
For a list of New Jersey beaches and contact information, take a look here: http://www.visitnj.org/nj/beaches
Be sure to check out beach specific websites as they are filled with important accessibility information:
Feel free to look up the beaches near you and find out what accommodations they may offer.
The sun may be warm and inviting, but too much of a good thing can be harmful. To avoid burns and lessen exposure, remember to bring and apply your sun screen. It’s a pain, we know. Constantly applying and reapplying sunscreen can be tedious, but compared to the pain you’ll experience from a bad sunburn, trust us, it’s the lesser of two evils. The professionals say use a 50+ SPF sunscreen. Follow the directions on the bottle and make sure to reapply after extended periods of swim or sweating. If you have a physical disability and have trouble spreading the sunscreen to all of your exposed skin, ask for assistance from a loved one or caregiver.
Remember that many medications can make an individual hyper-sensitive to the sun, so read the information on your prescription concerning prolonged exposure to sunlight. You may require a higher level of protection than SPF 50. It’s never a bad idea to bring along a beach umbrella, sunglasses, or wide brimmed hat. You can also find a shady spot in which to relax so you can take periodic breaks from direct sunlight exposure.
It’s always a good idea to check the town’s website for the times of operations, the cost of entry, and if you can bring coolers on the beach. Bringing a cooler allows you easy access to drinkable water. Dehydration is a real danger on a hot day, so be prepared with plenty of fluids. Even if you feel fine, continue to keep hydrated to prevent problems before they even begin.
Lastly, NEVER swim on an unguarded beach. Even the best of swimmers have gotten caught in a rip-tide or needed help to make it back to shore safely. Also, communicate with your lifeguard. Share with them that you are there either as a person with a disability or with someone who has a disability. Giving them a heads up as to your needs, will allow them to act quickly and effectively in the event of an emergency.
If you have any other tips you’d like to share or want to tell us what trips to the beach mean to you, feel free to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
Special thanks to Easterseals New Jersey Community Supports Services Staff for their contributions to this article: Jill Ehrhardt, Cindy Livingston, Nancy Danielson, and Karen Wagner