TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — It’s a long journey for Kim Dittman to make in her wheelchair, but it’s a journey she’s thankful for every day.
What You Need To Know
- One in seven people has a mobility issue — from being wheelchair bound, to missing limbs, to bad knees and hips
- Treasure Island is one of the only beaches in Pinellas County, and one of only 30 locations statewide, that has a mobility mat
- The Forward Foundation has offered to fully pay for them in any beach town that agrees to install one
- More Pinellas County headlines
“Well, I can see the waves crashing and I can see the birds,” said Dittman.
It’s all thanks to 400 feet of recycled materials that make it possible for her to enjoy the beach like everyone else.
“I’d be sunk in the sand,” said Dittman when asked how she would get down the beach without a mat.
One in seven people has a mobility issue — from being wheelchair bound, to missing limbs, to bad knees and hips.
Right now, Treasure Island is one of the only beaches in Pinellas County, and one of only 30 locations statewide, that has a mobility mat.
“We have the most beautiful beaches in the world, and we need to make them accessible not just for six out of seven, but seven out of seven,” said Jody Armstrong, director of outreach at the Disability Achievement Center.
She’s been advocating for these mats on all Pinellas County beaches for years, and now is teaming up with the local nonprofit Help Us Gather, and private foundation The Forward Foundation, to make it happen.
“This is a gift," said Armstrong. "This is a gift for Pinellas County and we have to take it up. We have to."
Each mat can cost up to $20,000, and The Forward Foundation has offered to fully pay for them in any beach town that agrees to install one.
“To finally someday see these mats become a reality is going to be amazing because they mean so much to everybody,” said Ashley Richmond, manager at Help Us Gather.
That goes especially for Dittman, who says these mats have given her a sense of independence she hasn’t felt in years.
“You become a part of the world again. So that’s what I love about it,” she said.
So far, the organizations have not yet heard back from any of the beach towns, so they are asking residents to reach out to local leaders to make a push for the installation of mobility mats.