LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Sunny spring weather may not be here just yet, but that didn’t stop people with physical disabilities and special needs from enjoying the beach.
The University of Southern Mississippi’s Institute for Disability Studies, the City of Long Beach and Gulfport’s Junior Auxiliary partnered to throw “Beach Day at the Wheel Way.”
“To see somebody that has never put their feet in the sand for the first time, it’s overwhelming to see that,” said Selena Rogers, president of the Junior Auxiliary of Gulfport.
The goal of the Beach Day at the Wheel Way was to give people in wheelchairs and with other disabilities a chance to go up on the sand, play and just have fun.
"I'm pretty excited to get up to the water," Emilu Oliver said.
Oliver is the reigning Miss Wheelchair Mississippi. Not too long after a car accident took her ability to walk, she said she went to a Florida beach with her friends but couldn’t really enjoy her trip because of her wheelchair.
"You don't want to take the fun away from everyone else," Oliver said.
There were no wheelchair pathways to allow her to see the water up close in her own. There was only a rental wheelchair that had to be pushed by someone else.
“As much as I was glad that they thought about it, it’s so nice that they’ve advanced stuff like ramps and stuff because those chairs you just sit there,” said Oliver. “You can’t do anything.”
Ramps and pathways aren't the only advancement allowing people in wheelchairs the freedom to explore the beach independently. The team from USM's Institute for Disability Studies brought out a wheelchair that can actually roll on sand without much difficulty or tire drag.
“As someone in a wheelchair, there are a lot of times that you just sit there and just think about the things you can’t do anymore,” Oliver said
Saturday wasn’t one of those times. The day was just about being included in the fun.