October 30, 2014

Elyria
Partly sunny
48°F
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Metro Parks rolls out floating beach chair for those with disabilities

Samantha Taylor was squealing in delight, and that is what her parents had hoped to hear.

“Her smile says it all,” her mother, Renee Taylor, said with a smile as she looked at Samantha, who was still wet from her jaunt into the waters of Lake Erie in a specially built wheelchair that lets those with physical limits enjoy the beach and what lies beyond.

Samantha, 22, has had cerebral palsy since birth, but that has never deterred her Amherst Township family from doing whatever they could to make Sam part of outings and times spent together.

The latest example came Friday afternoon at Lorain’s Lakeview Park where, under sunny skies and temperatures hovering around 90, Sam became the first person to take the Mobi Chair for a test drive.

Purchased for $2,200 this spring by the Lorain County Metro Parks, the equipment is described as an amphibious beach wheelchair that employs sturdy, bright orange plastic flotation armrests and big yellow balloon tires to wheel passengers along the sandy shore and into the water at the swimming beach.

Bryan Goldthorpe, manager for Lakeview Park, had been hunting for some time for the right piece of equipment to make the lakefront beach accessible to more people.

“My goal was to get people into the water, not just to the water,” Goldthorpe said. “With the boardwalk and all, you could get to the water’s edge and back, but you couldn’t get into the water. That had to be frustrating.”

Strapped in and wearing a lifejacket, Samantha was flanked by a lifeguard, and her dad, Aaron, who “popped a wheelie” as the pair easily maneuvered the young woman from the boardwalk, across the warm sand of the beach and into the cool water.

Samantha seemed right at home as she cried out in a way her mother instantly recognized as sounds of joy as the trio went about 75 feet into the lake.

“We want to give her every opportunity that every other kid has,” Renee Taylor said. “She’s been the biggest blessing in our lives. We have another daughter, and we’ve always done everything together.”

Renee Taylor talked about how glad she is to see equipment that is geared as much to adults as to children.

“That’s not always the case as you have so many things that are designed for use by children,” Taylor said.

The Taylors are well-versed in adaptive equipment. Renee serves as a consultant to the Metro Parks for the special-needs playground being developed for the Mercy Recreation and Health Center under construction in Amherst.

Goldthorpe said the device is the only one he’s aware of  along the entire Lake Erie shoreline.

The park system hopes to make the Mobi Chair available not only to people with disabilities, but people going through rehabilitation from injuries or following surgery, including military veterans, according to Jennifer Bracken, Metro Parks assistant director.

“We want everyone to enjoy the parks to the fullest extent,” Bracken said.

If demand for the chair is high enough, the parks may  consider getting a second Mobi Chair, according to Goldthorpe.

In the meantime, anyone who would like to try the new device out is asked to call Lakeview Park at (440) 245-1193.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.