Loose sand is no match for a beachgoer with a disability. But the sand is easily overcome for users of any of the five beach wheelchairs offered by the town of Wrightsville Beach.
Kris Thompson, Town of Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation Administrative Support Assistant, said each wheelchair is available for use year-round free of charge, and all five are heavily used during the tourist season. During the summer season, rentals of the beach wheelchairs are limited to three days, Thompson said.
Each year the town leaves flyers advertising the wheelchairs at the Wrightsville Beach Visitors Center and at each of the hotels on the beach, but Thompson said most of the people who use the wheelchairs learn about them through word of mouth.
The wheelchairs, with their rugged construction and oversized inflatable wheels, cost around $6,000. Two of the town’s wheelchairs were donated by Wrightsville United Methodist Church, and Jeff and Patti Mansmann.
Patti Mansmann’s 23-year-old niece Katie Mansmann visited her house in Wrightsville Beach for years before the family found out about the wheelchairs. Diagnosed with mitochondrial disease and unable to walk, Katie’s trips down to the water became much easier with the help of the specialized wheelchair.
“We had lived here for a while and didn’t know they were available. When I found out they were available it was a lifesaver because you could get her down there so efficiently,” Patti Mansmann said.
After using the town’s wheelchairs for a couple seasons and seeing how much more Katie was able to enjoy the beach, the Mansmanns decided to donate a wheelchair to provide more access to others.
“A couple years ago she was coming down and we knew the chairs were not in great shape so we looked into it,” Mansmann said. “We did it so people with handicaps would be able to go down to the beach and their relatives wouldn’t get hurt in the process of pushing them down there.”
Although the beach wheelchairs can access the beach strand at any of Wrightsville’s public beach accesses, those without the aid of a beach wheelchair may use any of the six Americans with Disabilities Act approved accesses. Those public beach accesses are Nos. 2, 3, 4, 16, 36 and 43.
To reserve a beach wheelchair, contact the Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation office at 910-256-7925, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.