Have you ever carried a differently abled friend or relative to the beach, only to have them restricted to a chair on the sand, looking on as others frolicked and enjoyed the waves? The next time you visit Trinidad’s most popular beach, Maracas Bay, you can be sure that if you or any member of your group are unable to walk into the water, you can now have the use of two state of the art amphibious wheelchairs through a new initiative called the Amphibious Wheelchair Service. The service is provided by the Tourism Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (TDC) with assistance from the National Center for Persons with Disabilities and in conjunction with the Lifeguard Division of the Ministry of Tourism of Trinidad and Tobago.
Representatives of the Tourism Development Company Limited got the idea after attending a conference in Wales and witnessed a demonstration of the chairs and the positive impact that they had on travelers with special needs. Differently abled beachgoers no longer have to limit their beach activities to the enjoyment of sun and sand but can now boast that they also soaked in the sea.
The chairs have the classic look of a beach chair but enable users to move along most types of terrain in addition to having the ability to float on water. Users of this ergonomic chair can enter the water with the assistance of an attendant and feel extremely safe. The passenger sits comfortably between two armrests which also serve as flotation devices and these armrests can be raised to allow the passenger to get in or out and provide stability once in the water. The wheels, apart from moving the occupants effortlessly over the ground also act as shock absorbers and there are handlebars connected to a steering wheel to enable a single person to steer the chair up access ramps and across sand or gravel. The seats are made of non-allergenic fabric and in addition to hugging the shape of the passenger’s body allows for easy filtering out of sand and water.
Travelers with special needs bring significant economic benefits to the tourism industry. These visitors tend to be loyal to a destination, in particular, to destinations that are thoughtful and that cater to their unique needs. The United States of America is Trinidad and Tobago’s main source market and has twenty percent of its population or 63 million persons with some form of disability. Research has further revealed that 24 million disabled Americans would travel more frequently if their special needs were met.
Given that the differently abled are a significant contributor to world tourism, the TDC has taken the lead in meeting the needs of the local, regional and international market. Those who are interested, can now access the service from the reliable and experienced lifeguards who also double as attendants, taking individuals into and out of the water, ensuring both their safety and an enjoyable experience.
The service will not only be limited to Maracas Beach but will be extended to other sites and attractions around Trinidad and Tobago. This initiative, coupled with the development of the first tourism brochure in Braille, positions Trinidad and Tobago as a destination that takes excellent care of their most valuable visitors.