Our director Angie Phythian shares the story of how she came to be involved with Enable Accessibility CIC.
As a 73-year-old retired lady, my friends are very important to me – new and old! I also love spending time with my husband of 51 years, my children and my six grandchildren. I love cooking, foraging – and cooking the results – jams, cordials and our own apple juice – to name a few – and I love swimming. Over the years, I began to find pool swimming a little tedious and so I began to look at wild water swimming.
I have always enjoyed sea swimming when possible.
Although I live in Harpenden, my life has involved holidays in Cornwall. Spending time in the Duchy is a family tradition that goes back 85 odd years from the time my mother went down to St Agnes, Cornwall as an 8-year-old child with her parents. Three generations later it continues.
Which brings us nicely to where I am today and why I am involved in Enable Accessibility CIC.
This story began on Saturday 4th October 2019 when my life changed.
I was involved in an accident, in which I nearly lost my life and which resulted in me having my right leg amputated above the knee.
My daughter Karen summed up what followed during our regular family stay in St Agnes 10 months later.
“We were told so many “won’t do” and “will never do agains”. But my mother has been determined to do everything they said she wouldn’t; drive, walk and swim. We have been determined to help make them happen.”
One of those “won’t do’s” was my goal to swim in the sea at Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes. But this was a fierce ambition of mine and my family were hugely supportive of my efforts to find a way to achieve it.
But how? I spent most of 2020 from coming out of hospital in January 2020 to August 2020 trying to find out how I could get on a beach in Cornwall, bearing in mind Cornwall is almost surrounded by sea.
Lockdown did not help my quest but having found I could hire a mobility scooter, wheelchair, walker and shower chair to aid my mobility on land whilst on holiday, I drew a dead end with finding a means of accessing the beach with an item of equipment I could hire.
Beach wheelchairs, known as sand chairs, with the big wheels are available at certain beaches but only to be used on the beaches they are assigned to. I spoke to soooo many people and drew a blank. In the end, with help from my family, I used a wheelchair to take me to the edge of the ramp that leads to Trevaunance Cove, then lowered myself onto the concrete ramp and launched myself at high tide unceremoniously into the sea. I did it but the exercise needed an army of people to make it happen. I could hardly enjoy wild swimming independently at any time other than high tide, without a huge team effort which involved a lot of planning.
In my quest for answers to my dilemma, I came across Jamie Hanlon, the founder of Enable Accessibility. Jamie was well known in the world of accessibility in Cornwall and was one of the people I had contacted in my quest for beach mobility. He also took the time to actually contact me after my holiday to see how I had got on…. We got talking, and the rest is history.
Last year Jamie made it possible for me to try out something known as a Hippocampe wheelchair. For the first time in two years, it was possible for me to access my beloved beach.
Until one becomes differently-abled (dif-abled), so many actions one does without thinking about it before an accident, an operation, a change in health circumstances… are all taken for granted. And this does not take into account the people born with conditions that make accessibility to beaches as well as toilets exceptionally difficult and degrading. I find there is usually a different way of doing most things but finding a way to access and move around on a beach either with my prosthetic on or in a wheelchair is a challenge that does not seem to have been addressed. But the Hippocampe wheelchair seems to be a piece of equipment that will bring real freedom to many individuals such as myself, who still have a love of the sea and adventure, despite our physical challenges.
So here I am – living my best life and looking forward to a few more holidays by the sea this year in my beloved St Agnes.
ABOUT THE HIPPOCAMPE WHEELCHAIR
The Hippocampe all-terrain beach wheelchair is amphibious — quite simply it is made to get wet. It is robust yet light and easy to assemble. It packs into a carrying case for easy transportation.
The wheelchair suits all ages, from 2 to 102. It has a corrosion-resistant frame and neoprene seat are maintenance-free – you just rinse it with clean water when your get home from your most recent adventure. It is perfect for going into the sea (although do take care with waves and currents). From forest trails, kayaking trips to exploring beaches and paddling in the sea the Hippocampe offers the freedom to explore.
You can hire the Hippocampe from us here at Enable Accessibility. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the button below to find hire availability and prices