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Disabilities Council brings beach accessibility to Cayman Islands’ shores

The National Council for Persons with Disabilities (the “Disabilities Council”) recently co-ordinated the importation of the Mobi-Mat, a lightweight, non-slip, portable, roll-out beach access pathway, designed for persons with mobility impairments and wheelchair users in mind.

The Mobi-Mat had a soft launch in April at the Guardian’s Alive event and will be permanently placed in an unveiling ceremony, organised by the Disabilities Council, on Saturday, 19 May at 8.30 a.m. at the Seven Mile Public Beach near Calico Jack’s. Acting on behalf of the Premier, Councillor Austin Harris will cut the ribbon, officially opening the Mobi-Mat for public use.

Responding to the need for beach access for all levels of mobility, the Disabilities Council set the wheels in motion as a matter of urgency to bring the Mobi-Mat to Grand Cayman for permanent fixture on the Seven Mile Public Beach.

With the help of financial donors and a very symbiotic private / public partnership between the Cayman Islands Government and several private sector companies and individuals, the Disabilities Council was able to turn a long-overdue need into a reality for many mobility-challenged locals and tourists alike.
Council member and Director of the Sunrise Adult Training Centre, Kimberly Voaden, initiated the idea of importing the mat more than a year and half ago, in discussions with local beach access advocate, Morne Botes. Shortly thereafter, fortuitously, service club Rotary Central Cayman Islands elected Mrs. Susie Bodden as President of their club. As an Educational Psychologist and Executive Leader of the Special Needs Foundation of Cayman, Mrs. Bodden also desired to tackle the issue of beach access as her special project during her term as President. Together, they began the journey to source fund, and accomplish the dream of bringing the mat to Cayman.

“As a country, the Cayman Islands has been making great strides, in recent years, to bring awareness to the accessibility issues faced by our community members and visitors with disabilities,” said Mrs. Voaden. “For persons with mobility limitations, both residents and visitors, to be surrounded by the most breath-taking views of the Caribbean Sea and not be able to enjoy our beaches and the waters to the fullest is such a shame. The Disabilities Council wanted to change that.”

Working with other departments within government, the Disabilities Council was able to obtain approval from the Ministry of Environment, Culture & Housing (Department of Environment); the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, Lands & Agriculture (Ministry of Education, Lands & Survey); the Ministry of Commerce, Planning & Infrastructure (Departments of Planning, Central Planning Authority, Public Works Department; and more recently, the National Roads Authority); the Ministry of District Administration and Tourism & Transport (Department of Tourism, and Port Authority).

The ordering process was ultimately spearheaded by Rotary Central Cayman Islands, with assistance from the Disabilities Council and private citizens.

The Disabilities Council also acknowledges some of the key people and organisations that came together to make this happen so quickly. The Council thanks Morne Botes and Shani Petzer, Marco and Tammy Archer, Kim Lund and the MS Foundation of the Cayman Islands along with Rotary Central, who collectively played very vital roles in a number of ways, every resident and visitor has been assured a clear and accessible surface to take them directly from land to sea.

Members of the public are invited to use the Mobi-Mat with respect, understanding that priority will always be given to persons with disabilities in the first instance. In particular, the general public should:
• refrain from driving over or parking vehicles on the Mobi-Mat to avoid damaging;
• not use the Mobi-Mat to sunbathe or leave personal belongings which might obstruct persons in wheelchairs or with mobility challenges;
• ensure that, once a person has been transferred from a wheelchair to the water, the vacated wheelchair is returned to its vehicle or removed from the Mobi-Mat to enable other persons with mobility challenges to use the Mobi-Mat freely.

The National Council for Persons with Disabilities is made up of 14 volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds and experience. All members have either disabilities, have family members with special needs/disabilities, work with or are involved in the education and care of the persons with disabilities, or are associated with organisations or initiatives that benefit the disabled.

The Council’s primary objective is to ensure that people with disabilities in the Cayman Islands can fully access all government services and aspects of our environment and society, in accordance with their constitutional rights.

In particular, the Council will focus on the Cayman Island’s National Disability Policy requirements that persons with disabilities enjoy:
• quality education in the most appropriate inclusive setting, and have access to lifelong learning,
• equal access to employment opportunities, fair wage and benefits,
• access to the highest standard of health care, and
• their highest level of independence and full inclusion in society.


IMAGE: Mobi-Mat



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