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Wheelchair gives beach access to disabled

KILKEE, Ireland, July 27 (UPI) -- People with disabilities don't have to forgo enjoying the sand at an Irish beach, courtesy of the country's first "all-terrain" wheelchair, officials say.

Kilkee Beach in County Clare is offering what officials say is the only publicly available beach-accessible wheelchair offering mobility on the sands, The Irish Times reported.

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"As far as we know, it's the only one in Ireland," said Pat Lillis, the communication area manager for the Brothers of Charity in Clare, responsible for obtaining the Deming De-Bug All Terrain Beach Wheelchair for Kilkee.

Unlike a conventional wheelchair with its narrow wheels that can sink into soft surfaces like sand, the 40-pound Deming chair has four large low-pressure, beach-ball-shaped wheels that allow the chair to easily move across the sand.

The Deming chair was invented in 1994 by American Mike Deming for his wife, Karen, after she became quadriplegic following a car crash in 1990.

Before the crash, she was involved in active water sports and her husband invented the De-Bug chair to give her a way to still enjoy being at beaches.

Lillis and his colleagues hope the availability of the chair will draw people to Kilkee who have a wheelchair user in their party, who may be getting the first beach experience of their life.

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"It's all about trying to think about disability and access differently," he said. "The demand for the beach chair won't be huge at any time, but it's also about inclusion, and getting that message across."

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