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Floating beach chair opens Shuswap Lake to people with limited mobility

Shuswap TrailRider Adaptive Adventure Society acquires new accessible equipment
Chris McDonald stands with the floating beach chair at Herald Park. (Photo contributed)

A new floating beach chair available through the Shuswap TrailRider Adaptive Adventure Society has already buoyed both the bodies and the spirits of several people.

Earlier this month, the chair for limited mobility people made a world of difference for members of a family from Alberta who were staying in Blind Bay, explains Debra McDonald, society founder.

Pam Keenan explains that her family was looking forward to a family vacation. But with Chad, her spouse, 14 months with a diagnosis of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also know as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and it significantly impacting his mobility, it was going to be a different vacation.

“Being able to borrow the beach wheelchair from the Shuswap TrailRider Adaptive Adventure Society was a game changer. We had two beautiful days on the beach and floating in the warm Shuswap waters, something we didn’t think would be possible again as a family.”

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McDonald confirms it’s a great addition and she’s grateful to BC Parks, which funded the chair.

“Just that ALS fellow out there, he had the biggest smile on his face. He just wanted to be in the water,” she says. “A lot of people can’t get in the water, but you can put them on that chair. It is very safe. We tried to tip it and it always goes back to the same spot. I think it’s untippable.”

She explains that for free or a donation, people can get a hold of her and they can figure out their needs and weight, and also sign a waiver.

“Anyone with limited mobility can ask for it.”

The chair comes with a portable beach mat that people can use to get on the beach when it’s sandy.

“I can’t do sandy in my wheelchair,” she says.

There may be a second chair at Canoe Beach, she adds. Her society also has a non-floating chair for use at the beach.

The city recently installed the long blue accessibility mat at Canoe Beach.

Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, explains that one of the recommendations in the 2016 Canoe Beach Master Plan was to improve safety and accessibility for all ages.

He says city staff saw it as a good project to implement to improve accessibility. The cost of the mat was approximately $8,000 plus taxes.

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“I think it’s great,” McDonald said. “In other cities, like Kelowna, Vernon, the cities have got on board with the word accessibility. I think we’re one of the last communities.

“Everything is becoming more accessible in Salmon Arm. It depends on your advocates in town… I think the city is getting advocates and they are moving it along nicely.”

An all-inclusive day, Canoe ‘Can You’ Beach Day with the Onit Ability Paddleboard, takes place on Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

To contact McDonald and the Shuswap TrailRider Adaptive Adventure Society, email or, or go to the society’s Facebook page here.


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Chad Keenan, Pam Keenan, Larry Basile, Trevor Sawatzky, Ainsley Keenan, Tianna Keenan, who are from Alberta but were staying at Blind Bay, were happy to have the use of the floating beach as Chad’s mobility is limited due to ALS. (Photo contributed)

Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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