SINGAPORE - Eleven year-old Aloysius Gan rarely gets a chance to play in the water at the beach, as growing up with cerebral palsy meant he cannot enter the water without help.
On Saturday (June 30), though, he could splash around in the water at Pasir Ris Park - getting his younger brother wet in the process - while sitting on a floating beach wheelchair which was brought into Singapore for the first time.
The wheelchairs were introduced on Saturday at outdoor activity centre Water-Venture (Pasir Ris) for this year's Inclusive Play Day, which seeks to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in social settings.
The Pasir Ris centre will have 10 beach wheelchairs on trial for organisations who want to use them. These wheelchairs are not available for public use for now.
The beach wheelchairs, in blue, white and yellow, are fitted with large yellow rubber wheels which allow them to roll on sandy beaches. Two large flotation devices, which double as armrests, let the wheelchairs bob about in the water, and each wheelchair will require a caregiver to push it into the water.
About 30 persons with disabilities had a chance to try the wheelchairs on Saturday.
It took the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), together with the People's Association, a year to obtain the wheelchairs. These are already in use in countries such as Mexico, Spain and France, said NCSS director of advocacy and research, Ms Fazlin Abdullah.
"We heard that people with disabilities avoid the beach because the salt and sand can corrode their wheelchairs," she said. "So these beach wheelchairs give them a chance to go in and enjoy the water."
Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo, who launched the beach wheelchairs at Pasir Ris Park, said the introduction of these wheelchairs mark a milestone in making Singapore a more inclusive society.
Mr Choo, who is also North-East district mayor, said: "The North-East community development council is looking at making these wheelchairs available for individual rental in the future, and working with People's Association to ensure such facilities are accessible to everyone."
He added: "PA will be planning to expand this across the island, as we want to make sure it becomes accessible and bring it as close to families as possible."