NewsPinellas County


Madeira Beach first of many beach facing cities to get mobility mats

Madeira Beach mobility mats2.png
Posted at 7:52 AM, Apr 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 17:35:55-04

MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — Last year a local nonprofit made a proposal to any beach-facing city in the Tampa Bay area — if that city installed a mobility mat, the Forward Foundation would pay for it.

Madeira Beach was the first city to take them up on the offer and this week they held an official ribbon cutting.

However, they cut more than just a ribbon, they cut down one of the many hurdles for people living with mobility issues.

RELATED: Disability advocates push for more mobility mats at Tampa Bay beaches

“Last year the foundation set out with the goal to make Tampa Bay’s beaches the most inclusive in the world,” said Robin Lally, President of the Forward Foundation.

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According to Lally, one in seven adults in the U.S. struggles with mobility, yet in the entire state of Florida, there are only about 30 beach mobility mats and just a handful are in Tampa Bay.

“Many of my friends use power chairs, many are in wheelchairs, I want them to experience the beach, they live here, it’s really important to me,” said Lally.

Mayor John Hendricks said accepting the Forward Foundation’s donation was a no-brainer. The foundation not only paid for the $5,688 MobiMat but helped the city with all the permitting issues that came along with it.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen it before, and not only did they do it for Madeira Beach, but for a number of the beach communities, they’ve gone above and beyond to get this done," said Madeira Beach Mayor John Hendricks.

RELATED: New Mobi-Mat making Pinellas County beach more handicap accessible

For members of the nonprofit organization, Help Us Gather, what may seem like a simple mat to some, is life-changing for others.

“We come out here sometimes to watch the sunset with our friends and we are pretty much limited to staying up there when we have other friends who can come out on the beach,” said one woman whose son is in a wheelchair.

Moneca McVey has been looking forward to a mobility mat for years and is proud to be one of the first to use it.

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“Any time you have the opportunity for somebody, maybe not with just a disability but in a wheelchair, to get out and be with family and friends and just hang out and this provides easy access,” said McVey.

The Forward Foundation anticipates rolling out several more of these MobiMats over the course of the year.

“Almost every beach-facing city is at least working on it or in the process of it,” said Lally.