By Staff Writer
It’s now a lot easier for persons using wheelchairs to access and fully enjoy Cayman’s beaches.
Previously encumbered by wheels getting stuck in the sand, wheelchair users can now easily access several beaches thanks to new Mobi-Mats being installed by the government.
The Mobi-Mats which provide a firm rubber surface down to the waterside enable wheelchairs to be rolled onto the beach with their traction designed to ensure a smooth ride and easy manoeuvring.
The first Mobi-Mats have been installed at Seven Mile Public Beach, Government’s House Public Beach and on the Brac through a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture and Lands (MEYSAL), the Cabinet Office, the Older Persons Council and the Persons with Disabilities Council.
A total of six Mobi-Mats will be installed on public beaches throughout the Cayman Islands as part of this initiative.
Speaking at the installation ceremony for the first mat which took place on the eve of The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Hon. Speaker of Parliament, McKeeva Bush, praised the initiative and thanked the ministries and departments involved.
"I deeply appreciate what the Ministries and departments involved have done to make this a reality. Once the mats are properly affixed, that will result in their extended longevity, allowing users to benefit and have access to our amazing beaches and the sea for many years to come," Mr Bush stated.
Chairperson for the Council for Older Persons, Lucille Seymour, also expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Lands for providing older persons with a method through which she said: "they can participate in swimming and providing a pathway to keep them more healthy and social."
"As an older person who loves the sea and enjoys the therapeutic benefits, I urge all older persons to take up this excellent and beneficial opportunity of going to the beach," she added.
Cathy Fraizer, Council for Persons with Disabilities echoed similar sentiments, on behalf of the Older Persons and Disability Councils.
Minister for (EYSAL) Hon. Juliana O'Connor-Connolly expressed her delight at the opportunity to contribute towards the nations' development.
"I am elated that through social engineering, we have been able to move one step further towards the development of our country. Although we will not be able to install mats at every beach access area, we will nonetheless do all we can to ensure that our senior citizens and the most vulnerable in our communities can access our beaches and enjoy their tranquillity," Min. O'Connor-Connolly said.
Deputy Chair of the Council for Persons with Disabilities, Mrs Alice Mae Coe, implored members of the public to use the mats with care allowing them to facilitate the enjoyment of the islands’ beaches by less-abled individuals and older persons.
Others in attendance at the ceremony included Hon. Tara Bush, Minister for Financial Services & Home Affairs, Chairperson for the Council for Persons with Disabilities - Ms Magda Embury, and representatives from the Ministry of Lands, the Cabinet Secretary’s Office and other participating Ministries and departments.
A choir from the Sir John A Cumber Primary School sang the National Song.
MOBI-MAT COMES TO THE BRAC
A similar function was held at the Public Beach on the Brac with a good community turnout.
In attendance was the Hon. Min. for EYSAL Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who is also MP for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
“The soul of a nation is measured by what it does for the upliftment of its elderly and more vulnerable in society," she remarked.
Mrs O'Connor-Connolly also encouraged the Brac community to "try to get those who have never been to the beach to come out, even arrange to bring them."
"I believe that for them this would be a life-changing undertaking,” the minister concluded exuberantly,” she told the gathering.
Also speaking was Hon. Deputy Premier and MP for Brac West and Little Cayman, Moses Kirkconnell who highlighted the health benefits going to the beach.
“It is long believed that being in the waters aids in reducing sinus issues and even arthritis. Be proud of this Mobi-Mat for our elders and disabled in our midst. Surely Little Cayman is our list as well."
"Start going to beach!” he urged with a smile.
Mrs Annie Rose Scott, the Sister Islands Representative on the Council for Older Persons said the Mobi-Mat project was very dear to her, adding that “it will encourage older residents to use the beach for medicinal purposes.”
She too expressed the hope that Mobi-Mats will also be installed at other locations.
Delivering the Vote of Thanks Ms Lynette Monteith praised the government for having the foresight to undertake this project all others who contributed to making it a reality.
Deputy District Commissioner Mark Tibbetts presided over the event as Master of Ceremonies while District Commissioner Ernie Scott gave welcome remarks.
Aliyah and Aniyah Augustine, twin sisters from Creek and Spot Bay Primary School sang the National Song and there were performances by The Layman E Scott Senior High School choir.