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Accessible Beach-Sea without Barriers

Throughout my travels I have always heard about an " accessible beach" in Puerto Rico and this year I went to see it for myself. It was a hot sunny day when the Rico Tour mini bus drove us the forty-five minutes from Sun Jaun to the Luquillo Beach area. Much to my disappointment the last Hurricane has cause some damage to the cement ramp into the water but I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the rest of the complex and certainly not with the concept. When we arrived the disabled area known as ‘Sea Without Barriers’ was just buzzing with families using the disabled facilities, helping their family members in and out of the warm Caribbean waters. What I heard and saw were lots of laughter and many smiles.

The idea of the "Sea without Barriers" facility originated by the urging of a young Puerto Rican girl named Rosimar Hernández. Though in a wheelchair, she dreamed of being able to fully enjoy a visit to the beach, including the joy of getting into the ocean.

Determined to make her dream a reality for herself and others with a similar handicap, little Rosimar sent a letter, a poem, and some sketches of her idea to the Governor of Puerto Rico, describing a facility that would allow people dependent on wheelchairs to get into the ocean, not just sit and look at it.

Rosimar’s words inspired Governor Pedro Rosselló to create this facility. Rosimar’s poem "If only I could" stopped being just another sand castle in the air. The dream expressed in her poem has been realized with the facility called ‘Sea without Barriers,’ which is part of the beautiful Luquillo Beach Bathing Park on Puerto Rico’s northeast coast, forty-five minutes from San Juan.

By providing specially designed access for people in wheelchairs, this recreational area has broken new ground in providing for the handicapped. Designed to conform completely with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this innovative facility features a system of ramps leading from the parking lot to a protected platform in the ocean where a person in a wheelchair can enjoy being partially submerged in the water. Now the pleasures of getting into the water, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Puerto Rico—can be enjoyed by disabled visitors from all over the world.

‘Sea without Barriers’ offers the handicapped and their families and companions much more than the system of ramps giving wheelchair access to the sea. Constructed at a cost of $2 million and covering over seven acres, the complex also includes:

-a beach recreation area -a modern central building -bathrooms with showers -covered picnic tables with charcoal grills -special wheelchairs for entering the water -ample parking for cars and buses -lifeguards and emergency medical personnel -wheel-up outdoor showers

With this project, Puerto Rico has set a precedent for the world to follow. Thanks to ‘Sea without Barriers,’ disabled residents of Puerto Rico and their counterparts visiting the Island from all over the world can realize Rosimar’s dream here on the Island of Enchantment.

The covered picnic tables are for the exclusive use of persons who require the use of a wheelchair, including persons over 65 years of age with mobility limitations.

The special wheelchairs for entering the water can be rented without advance reservation, on the day of a visit to the facility. A release form must be signed by any person renting a wheelchair Wheelchairs can only be used within the confines of the facility.

When I was swimming at Luquillo Beach and allowing the warm Caribbean water to flow over my body and when I felt that freedom that only can be truly understood by someone else who is disabled, that freedom of the water, I looked back at the beach and was struck with the realization that this could be done at 100’s of beaches around the world, and should be done. I wondered , Why isn’t it ??

For more information on Sea without Barriers 721.2800 ext 1545 Information on Puerto Rico-www.prtourism.com Rico Tours 1.800.844.2080

Jane Danielson is a Freelance Writer for the Disabled and Poet and has been published in extensively in Canada and United States. She became mobility disabled 12 years ago and uses a cane, wheelchair and electric scooter. Jane believes that traveling is a prescription for a healthy optimistic outlook, especially for the disabled but really for everyone. Some of Jane’s articles include Camping in a National Park, Whale Watching on Brier Island, Fun in Florida and the Healing Powers of Hawaii. Her travel articles always look at the positive experience of traveling, with a realization of the obstacles that must be overcome to achieve this experience. Web Page : www. Disabled-Traveler.com Email: Jane@Disabled-Traveler.com


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