Children with physical disabilities in Seychelles can now enjoy the sea more easily thanks to the introduction of WaterWheels -- a wheelchair for use on water.
The customised WaterWheels were unveiled and handed over to the National Council for the Disabled on Saturday in a short ceremony in the southern Mahe district of Anse Royale.
The beach wheelchair project is an initiative of Bronson and Christine Winslow and their local business partner Elvis Naya of Winslow Naya Consulting, based in Eden Island.
The Winslows, who live in South Africa have a young son, Jason, who has Duchenne Muscular dystrophy -- a genetic disease that leads to progressive deterioration of muscle fibres. Jason is unable to walk without assistance.
Bronson Winslow said the project idea came about during their last visit to Seychelles when they took Jason to the beach.
"We realised how difficult it was to get him safely into the water and back out in a dignified manner," said Winslow.
The WaterWheels is a floating beach wheelchair which enables people with disabilities to access soft terrains like sand, grass, snow and gravels. Thanks to its floating armrests and oversized wheels, users of WaterWheels can also safely float in water.
He said he hopes families with disabled children will make use of this free-of-charge service so they can also enjoy the sea.
"This project will open avenues for the public and especially for the disabled to be able to access the beach and enjoy the beach with their families, as much as we do as able-bodied persons," added Winslow.
The chairman of the National Council for the Disabled (NCFD), Marcus Simeon, said, "This project is in line with NCFD's vision and that of the Convention of the Rights of the Disabled, to provide more services to the disabled and make Seychelles more accessible. Of course, a lot remains to be done in this direction but every effort is a step forward."
He called on families with disabled children to come forward and make full use of the service, which will be based at the Beau Vallon beach in the north of Mahe, the main island.
When thanking the Winslow and Naya families, Simeon said this was just the beginning and called on other businesses to follow suit.
On Saturday, Jason and two other young disabled persons -- 5-year-old Justen Mondon and 11-year-old Elisha Bristol -- also got the chance to test the new equipment.
Mondon suffers from a rare condition called Noonan syndrome, a genetic disorder that prevents normal development in various parts of the body. His mother, Sylvianne Pool has commended the Winslows for what she described as an interesting project.
"Justen loves the sea and we always take him to the beach. So this water wheel is very useful for kids with disabilities like him", said Pool. She added that although they live in Les Canelles in the southern part of the island, they plan to make the trip to Beau Vallon, in the northern part, on weekends, to use the new facility.
Winslow Naya consulting said this is a long term project and it has already approached other businesses which have shown an interest to invest in more water wheels for Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
The company's director, Elvis Naya said, "Eventually we want to have this service on most beaches on Mahe as well as the other to main islands, Praslin and La Digue."
The WaterWheels has been imported from France at a cost of SCR 45,000 ($3,282). It will be managed by the Seychelles lifeguard services.