Lauren's disabled beach paths call backed by thousands
More than 12,000 people have supported a woman's plea for the creation of disabled-friendly paths on all of Northern Ireland's beaches.
Thousands of social media users have backed Lauren Anderson's open letter asking local government and community groups to provide the access on more of our strands.
Carrickfergus woman Lauren, whose mum Pat uses a wheelchair, posted the message alongside a picture of a disabled-friendly stainless steel beach pathway.
The 24-year-old advertising graduate, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, told the Belfast Telegraph she wanted people with mobility problems to be able to reach the water's edge so they can enjoy the beach like everyone else.
Pat suffers from spondylosis, a painful spinal condition caused by the degeneration of the intervertebral discs. As a result she walks hunched over and finds it incredibly painful to take more than a few steps.
Lauren explained: "I had always said to my mum: 'I'm going to get you down to the beach one day to walk with my nephew, Marcus'.
"He's two now and I always tell her she's going to do it, but at the moment she just can't."
She then saw a picture of a beach with a disabled path.
"I thought it would be great if we could have something like this in Northern Ireland, so I wrote a bit about how my family has been affected at Brown's Bay and shared it on Facebook."
By the time Lauren went to bed she was surprised to see that the post had got 80 'likes'. When she logged on the next morning it had reached 2,000, a figure that has continued to rise to well over 12,000.
She said: "We've been overwhelmed by the support.
"I would like to see some sort of path put into place that everyone can use. Some people have mentioned tidal issues and others have suggested wheelchairs which can go on to the sand, but it's important to remember that not everyone can use those wheelchairs."
Lauren pointed out that disabled children are often carried down to the beach, but this was not possible as they grew older.
"I know that my mum couldn't always come down with us. She used to just sit in the car and watch from a distance."
Pat said: "It's part of family life being able to go on trips together. Because I wasn't able to go on to the beach I missed out of the fun with my two daughters."
Lauren added: "I'd love for my mum to be able to come down and play with my nephew. I think it'd be therapeutic for them."
A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said there was a "gently sloping ramp" on to the beach.
However, Lauren pointed out: "It's quite steep and it's broken away in parts, and when you get to the bottom of the slope it's just sand, which you can't put a wheelchair on."
MP Jeffrey Donaldson is among the many people supporting Lauren's idea and pledged to encourage councils to consider making their beaches more accessible.
Recently, Ards and North Down Borough Council opened a £58,000 wheelchair-friendly boardwalk that leads to the beach at Cloughey.
The Facebook appeal
"I would love to be able to take my mum to the beach at Brown's Bay for her to paddle her feet and play with her grandson. But unfortunately she is a wheelchair user and can only be out of the chair for a little while and can't walk the distance to the water. I would love to see disabled pathways down to the water at all beaches across Northern Ireland. Maybe if enough people share this image something wonderful might just happen, not just for my mum but also for all those who would love a paddle, many of whom have never been able to do so their entire lives."