Volunteers make Florida beach accessible to all

People with disabilities often don’t have access to the beach. Volunteers in Miami Beach, Florida, are changing that. CBS NEWS

For Sergio Echeverria, it wasn’t just a day at the beach. Nicknamed Aquaman, Echeverria has always considered the ocean to be his second home — but a tractor accident this winter left him paralyzed from the waist down, jeopardizing his ability to do what he loved.

“I had my doubts,” he said of his ability to get in the water again.

But he was proven wrong.

Making his dream come true was a small army of volunteers who, once a month, place plastic mats on a stretch of Miami Beach to make it more accessible to wheelchairs or other mobility devices. There are also special floating chairs that transport people with disabilities in the water.

Credit: CBS News.

CBS News tagged along with Echeverria as he went in the ocean for the first time since the accident.

“I’m crying of joy,” Echeverria said.

Sabrina Cohen is the woman behind the “adaptive beach days.” Cohen, who was paralyzed at age 14 from a car accident, is among 61 million U.S. adults with disabilities.

“For a moment, when you’re in the water, you’re like anybody else,” Cohen said. “Any mobility devices that you use, just wash away for a moment.”

Everyone is in tears when people go into the water for the first time in years, she said. “We all cry. It’s like tears of joy, it’s a gift to give to others,” she said.

She’s now working to install a permanent location to reach more than the 8,000 people they’ve already helped.

“It’s like a small strand of miracles that just keep coming together,” she said.

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