Disabled group backs South Shields campaigner’s beach access bid

Lauren Benham with wheelchair user friend Georgia Fontaine has launched a petition to boost disabled access at Sandhaven beach through the construction of a ramp from the sands up to the sea.
Lauren Benham with wheelchair user friend Georgia Fontaine has launched a petition to boost disabled access at Sandhaven beach through the construction of a ramp from the sands up to the sea.

A determined disabled rights crusader has won fresh backing for her bid to make sure a South Tyneside beach isn’t out of bounds to anyone.

Lauren Benham says Sandhaven Beach, South Shields, can be truly open to all – with the introduction of a wheelchair-friendly ramp providing access from the sands to the sea.

It is like going to Paris and not making the Eiffel Tower accessible to as many people as you can.

Bill Harrington

The 21-year-old launched an online petition last month calling on council chiefs to adopt the pioneering plan, which has been signed by nearly 900 people.

Now Miss Benham, from Barbour Avenue, South Shields, will be sharing her plans during a talk at disability group, the IDEA (Independence, Disability, Equality and Access) forum.

Bill Harrington, forum facilitator, said: “Anything that improves access, especially to something as special as the beach is to South Shields, is a great idea.

“It is like going to Paris and not making the Eiffel Tower accessible to as many people as you can.

“People will be very supportive of the idea at our meeting.”

Miss Benham said she decided to launch the petition after her disabled pal Georgia Fontaine admitted she often felt like ‘a burden’ when out and about with pals.

“It was heartbreaking for me to hear that. I had posted the suggestion for a ramp and everyone was really positive about the idea.”

The IDEA forum meeting runs from 10am until noon at 34-36 New Green Street.

You can view the petition by visiting www.change.org and searching for Wheelchair Access at South Shields Beach.