Girl in wheelchair at beach

ADA: Project Ramps Up Beach Accessibility

  August 21, 2020

By Dan Hounsell

Thirty years after the enactment of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), institutional and commercial continue to struggle with removing barriers to accessibility in both new and existing buildings. While much of the scrutiny related to accessibility involves structures, the issue of accessibility in public spaces is much broader. One often overlooked aspect of accessibility involves outdoor spaces, including beaches.

A recently completed five-year accessibility plan for Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach includes a 100-foot ramp from the street to the beach, plus beach wheelchairs that are free to use, reports The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The setup goes beyond basic compliance, said Ability Center CEO Damian Buchman, meaning “Milwaukee is home now to the most accessible beach in the country.” The Ability Center, a nonprofit founded by Buchman, collaborated with Milwaukee County to install the ramp. 

The ramp is 8 feet wide, so people using wheelchairs can easily pass each other. It is made of smooth concrete instead of other materials, like wood, that can be uncomfortable for people who use wheelchairs, particularly those who don't have head and neck control. A portable nonslip mat makes up the rest of the distance to the water.

“We wanted to do something everyone feels comfortable using. They can feel like they're wanted here and belong here,” Buchman said, adding that he visited beaches around the country to see what Milwaukee could do better. 

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.



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