Barcelona helps disabled beachgoers frolic in waves

Special service run by the Barcelona city hall

People cool off at a beach in Sitges town, south of Barcelona, Spain, July 15, 2021.

People cool off at a beach in Sitges town, south of Barcelona, Spain, July 15, 2021.

Reuters/Albert Gea

BARCELONA - Seven-year-old Max Segui has a huge smile on his face as his father carries him ashore at Barcelona's Nova Icaria beach after a splash in the sea.

Segui has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, making beach trips difficult, but today he is using a special service run by the Barcelona city hall which has helped thousands of disabled beachgoers.

It includes amphibious chairs, purpose-designed dressing rooms complete with a lifting crane, and nine specially trained lifeguards to help users access the water and enjoy the waves.

"I can swim and play. And they also have things for people to swim, they gave me a life jacket, a floatie with a tube. People who can't walk always come here," said Segui.

Owing to the COVID-19 restrictions, swimmers have to book ahead to use the service, but they do not seem to mind.

"It helps us a lot because otherwise I wouldn't be able to go down to swim on my own," said Nati Gines, 58, who uses a full-leg prosthetic ashore and gets into the water in an amphibious chair, after which she is an independent swimmer.

"This way they make it very easy for us ... they are lovely, they are very attentive."

For the team, helping people to take a refreshing splash in the sea is rewarding.

"It gives us such satisfaction to see the look of happiness when the people get in the sea. It makes it all worth while," said Gisela Ocampos, 36, team coordinator.

Luis Ferrer, 74, can walk with crutches, but needs help in the water.

"I want to feel that I can do things that I never thought I could do and I feel much better for this. I can only speak wonders of the people who help us," he said.

(Reporting by Nacho Doce, writing by Andrei Khalip and Graham Keeley, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky) ((;))

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