Heroes around the World: Playa Inclusiva

Have we mentioned that Arica is in the desert, yet? Yeah, it gets pretty hot here, so we head to the beach, walking the half-mile south along the coast to what we’ve been told is the closest accessible shore. When we get there, it’s already packed with beachgoers, even though it’s only 10:00 am.

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We’ve brought a backpack and we’re worried about theft, so we look around for lockers and don’t find any. A group of neon-orange clad people notice our plight and one of them approaches us. “You can leave your stuff with us,” she says cheerfully, “we’ll watch it.” We follow her over to a canopy where the orange-clad people are standing and drop the bags off. Then we notice that they have some odd vehicles with them.

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We ask them what they’re here for, and they explain the amazingly cool work they do. Everybody loves playing in the ocean (especially in Arica’s heat), but it isn’t accessible to everyone. People who can’t swim because they are wheelchair-bound or differently-abled have a hard time swimming in the water. To ensure that these people also get a chance to enjoy the ocean, their organization Playa Inclusiva provides these giant bikes that can be pushed through the water. The differently-abled person sits on the seat with a life jacket and one of the volunteers pushes them through the surf, meaning they get to enjoy the cool ocean waters alongside everyone else.

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The issue of accessibility at the beach was one I had never thought about, so it was amazing to see that the people at Playa Inclusiva had not only thought about it, but also created a solution that relies only on a volunteer, a life jacket, and one of these bikes. Thanks to them, everyone at Arica can enjoy the beach. And that is badass.

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