An enterprising project set to boost access to Abu Dhabi's beaches and seas for people with disabilities has been hailed for championing inclusivity.
Remote-controlled ramps which allow those with mobility issues to enjoy the waters independently are being introduced at some public beaches in the capital.
The solar-powered tracks – designed by Greek company Seatrac – are fitted with a fixed chair which transports users from the sand to the sea.
Beach-goers can use the rails of the ramp to lower themselves into the sea and lift themselves back into the chair
The high-tech device is already in operation at Corniche Sahil Beach, Corniche Public Beach, Al Bateen Public Beach and Al Bateen Ladies' Beach.
The ramps will be installed at Corniche Family Beach next month before being implemented at Al Bahr Public Beach.
Opening up public spaces for all
Abdulla Alsaad, 40, has used a wheelchair for many years due to an accident.
He said he has been previously deterred from enjoying beaches due to his disability.
“This project amazed me. I saw other chairs available in other places but they are mostly either manual or it’s hard for transportation or to move from one place to another,” Mr Alsaad, a senior information technology specialist, told The National.
“It was very tiring to access the beach and to swim before this project for me and for the person helping me, to the point where I’d rather go to the pool because it is easier.
“Wheelchairs are not designed to move on sand so I used to avoid going to the beach because of the difficulties of entering and exiting the beach.
“I am dependent on myself and now I don’t need assistance, I can easily go to the beach.
“This project is also offering safety for the users and also the employees working by the beach and here to assist the users.”
The initiative, which is being led by the Department of Municipalities and Transport and Mubadala, the emirate's sovereign investment arm, was announced earlier this month.
Trained lifeguards are in place at beaches to assist people using the high-tech tracks.
To use the ramp, wheelchair users transfer from their wheelchair to the fixed chair on the track.
The user can then press a remote control to move the chair towards the waters and then stop the device when they reach their preferred depth.
The project has already been introduced at more than 200 beaches in Greece.
Breaking down barriers
“The project provides necessary facilities for people with determination [the umbrella term widely used by the UAE government to describe people with disabilities} to access the sea," said Nafea Al Hamli, executive director of the support services sector at Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination.
"People with determination are an integral part of societal development, and the wise leadership shows great interest in empowering them in society."
Hamda Al Hashmi, acting director of the urban design department at the Department of Municipalities and Transport, said the scheme underlined Abu Dhabi's commitment to promoting equality across all sections of society.
“While selecting the six locations in Abu Dhabi, we focused on ensuring inclusivity and accessibility, a commitment that was reflected in the design phase where our emphasis was on providing users with a smooth experience from their arrival at the beach to reaching the unit,” Ms Al Hashmi told The National.
“This initiative goes beyond just physical access. It symbolises the commitment to creating spaces that cater to diverse needs.
“People of determination can now enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the beach, participate in water activities, and engage in beach-related experiences without barriers."