People with disabilities enjoy beach day thanks to local entities

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - It was all about enjoying the sun and the surf for a group of people who might experience a less fun-filled day at the beach, and two South Florida organizations made it all possible.

People with disabilities got to experience something that many take for granted: a day at the beach. The Adaptive Beach Day, organized by the Sabrina Cohen Foundation and the Memorial Rehabilitation Institute in Hollywood, gave these special beachgoers the opportunity to partake of all kinds of activities they normally wouldn’t get to do.

Ask any of the people at the event, and they will tell you about the challenges they face when they attempt to do something as seemingly simple as getting a wheelchair onto the sand.

“You notice we’ve got these mats? Without these mats, we couldn’t make it,” said disabled veteran Donald Moore as he pointed to powder blue mats on the sand.

“Actually, if we didn’t have this, we’d be doing the interview on the other side of the park, in the park and on the boardwalk,” said Sabrina Cohen as she referred to the lack of wheelchair access on Miami Beach.

Paralympian Juan Carlos Gill also talked to 7News about the obstacles people with disabilities face when going to the beach. “The sand, first of all, it’s gross,” he said.

The goal of the event is to make the beach accessible for the disabled, and that includes going into the water. 7News cameras captured three volunteers taking a quadriplegic man on a special floating wheelchair.

“There’s a lack of adaptive recreational programs in South Florida,” said Memorial Rehabilitation Institute spokesperson Ray Shipman, “so when we saw Sabrina and what she was doing, we saw a great opportunity to combine forces. We have hand cycling programs, wheelchair basketball.”

Back in 1992, at the age of 14, Cohen sustained severe spinal core injuries during a car accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down. Since that life-changing event, she has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for people just like her.

This is why Cohen and the City of Miami Beach are teaming up to create these beach days on every first and third Saturday of the month, and Cohen said the biweekly event has become a hit. “We just get everyone from spinal cord injuries, MS, veterans, elderly individuals who might have mobility issues, into the water by assisting them with these special products,” she said.

While there are currently laws that do not allow permanent accessibility structures on Miami Beach, participants hope this will one day change, allowing everyone to enjoy their piece of paradise. “That will give us the ability, as everybody else, to be a part of the community,” said Gill.

“Once I’m in [the water], I hop all over the place. I’ll be dripping,” said Moore. “Just getting me in is the hard part.”

The Sabrina Cohen Foundation started these beach days this past Fourth of July, and organizers said, every time they do it, the turnout keeps increasing. Before this program was created, Cohen said, she had not been in the ocean for more than 20 years.

If you’d like more information about the Sabrina Cohen Foundation, click on this link.

Copyright 2017 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.