If you’ve spent any time on a beach this summer, you’ll know that a wheelchair isn’t a common sight on the sand. Unless, that is, the wheelchair belongs to 16-year-old James Smith, above.
James, who has duchenne muscular dystrophy, is, according to his family “a bit of a thrill seeker”. Tomorrow, coinciding with National Paralympic Day, James will steer his high-tech, all-terrain wheelchair through a sandy obstacle course in Tynemouth to raise awareness about beach accessibility.
Saturday’s Longsands Beach Challenge – what organisers say is the first ever beach wheelchair event of its kind – will see disabled and able-bodied participants negotiate a beach-based race circuit.
North Tyneside council has given permission for the event to take place and is supporting the “beaches for all” campaign. The aim is to have power beach chairs available for loan at the beach all year round.
The event is being organised by two companies, Dolphin Lifts and Mobility and Shape Adaptations. Shape director Stephen Smith is James’ father – he was inspired to organise the event by his son.
The free event runs between 10am-4pm on Saturday with races on the hour and prizes for the winners.
* A separate event in London tomorrow marks a year since the Paralympics; artist Rachel Gadsden (whose powerful, awareness-raising work has previously featured on this blog) and artistic director and choreographer Marc Brew present a free new show for National Paralympic Day and Liberty Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The show is called Cube of Curiosity.