West Michigan is known for its beautiful beaches and parks, but accessing them can be challenging for those with mobility disabilities.
Fortunately, all-terrain track chairs and adaptive beach chairs are helping parks and other spaces become more inclusive. In many cases, this accessible equipment which often costs several thousands of dollars wouldn’t be available without generous donors.
Holland State Park, for example, was recently gifted two outdoor-accessibility motorized chairs that can be used by visitors with mobility issues to explore trails and beaches. Grand Haven and Muskegon state parks have similar chairs thanks to donations.
Track chairs like these donated to Grand Haven State Park have also been gifted to Holland and Muskegon state parks. (Grand Haven State Park)
The new chairs at Holland State Park are among two recent gifts that are increasing access in the Holland area. The other is a new wheelchair and motorized shopping cart given to the newly-opened Food Club & Opportunity Hub.
“These donations are a wonderful example of how organizations can help ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in everything our community has to offer,” says Amanda Rhines, executive director at Disability Network Lakeshore. “We’re thrilled to see more and more accessible options for Lakeshore residents, and we look forward to working with the community to improve everyone’s quality of life.”
Opens park access to all
At the state park, the two Action Track chairs will operate smoothly on multiple outdoor surfaces, allowing individuals with limited mobility to experience all aspects of the park, from the deep sand to the trails and the water’s edge.
The chairs fully operate off-road and run smoothly over gravel, uneven surfaces, and mud. They provide accessibility on outdoor trails, hiking trails, and sandy beaches.
“We are excited to have two Action Track chairs at the park,” says Sean Mulligan, the park’s supervisor. “They will open the door for access to the beach and the trail system behind our campground. We’re looking forward to seeing how this increased accessibility opens our facility to the full community. We have a great park, and this gift will eliminate barriers, allowing more people to experience its beauty.”
The chairs are a gift from Family Hope Foundation that was made possible by a longtime donor of the nonprofit.
“It was a special moment when a faithful donor approached us offering to make a unique gift,” says Jane Eppard, Family Hope’s executive director. “These chairs will enhance mobility for individuals to fully experience the beauty of Holland State Park. Although our focus remains on giving the “Gift of Ability” through our scholarship program, this donor-driven project allowed us to do something special for the communities we serve.”
Launched in 2009, the nonprofit Family Hope Foundation provides therapy scholarships, resources, family events, and support for a wide range of diagnoses and therapies.
Chairs increase beach access
Grand Haven State Park also has three similar chairs thanks to the generosity of groups. Two Action TrackChairs were donated by the Goodale and Family Foundation and Friends of Grand Haven State Park and a Freedom Trax chair was donated by Lori’s Voice for the Freedom chair. Online reservations are available May 1 through Oct. 31.
There is also a track chair at Muskegon State Park thanks to a donation by Kali’s Cure. The chairs may be used throughout most of the park. They are available on a first-come, first-reserved year-round Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 1 through Oct. 31. Reservations can be made by calling 231-744-3480.
This wheelchair and motorized shopping cart were donated to the newly-opened Food Club & Opportunity Hub for guests to use. (CAH)
Expanded access to healthy food
At the newly constructed Food Club & Opportunity Hub, the Holland After Hours Rotary Club has provided a new wheelchair and motorized shopping cart, with funding from a Rotary District 6290 matching grant and support from Gentex.
The wheelchair and shopping cart lets guests with mobility issues shop more easily and independently around the Food Club floor.
“At Food Club, we aim to be a welcoming and trusted space for all of our neighbors, and part of that is ensuring accessibility for all while they’re in the space,” says Program Manager Chara Bouma-Prediger. “With Rotary’s generous support, we are thrilled to be able to offer both a wheelchair and a motorized shopping cart to our guests to improve their shopping experience.”
In just seven months of service, more than 1,645 qualifying low-income families have benefited from the Food Club’s membership-based program that provides access to healthy food through a grocery store-style experience.
Located in the former Yff’s neighborhood grocery location at 739 Paw Paw, the Community Action House team has already seen the benefits of its model. Recently, a Food Club guest with a history of mobility issues shared that after being at Food Club for five months, he’s moving around more easily, feeling healthier, and has lost 50 pounds.
In addition to offering access to fresh produce, meat, and dairy, Food Club aims to provide service in a high-dignity, high-choice environment, allowing guests to choose the food and shopping times that work best for their families.
The Food Club & Opportunity Hub also provides the tools and resources members need to achieve food access and financial stability. Guests can shop, then stop in at the Opportunity Hub, where resource specialists connect them to financial education services, foreclosure prevention, and other community resources.
The Rotary Club gathered in May to celebrate the new wheelchair and motorized shopping cart and bring donations of food to help stock the shelves at Food Club.
This article is a part of a year-long series exploring the state of West Michigan’s growing disability community. The series is made possible through a partnership with Centers for Independent Living organizations across West Michigan.