Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Justice Turns Wheels for the Disabled

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Justice Turns Wheels for the Disabled

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

The 11 years since Jack Gillrup was appointed chief of Jacksonville's Disabled Services Division have been a revolutionary -- or at least evolutionary -- age for the rights of the disabled.

The Americans with Disabilities Act had just been passed in 1990. Soon the city would embark on a series of massive building programs, including the River City Renaissance and the Better Jacksonville Plan. The Gator Bowl would be virtually rebuilt as Alltel Stadium.

Gillrup's job for the last decade has included making sure that about a half-billion dollars worth of new or renovated city buildings complied with the new act giving the disabled equal access.

Against that background, the purchase of a $6,000 wheelchair seems like pretty small stuff. But to Gillrup, who is himself a wheelchair user, the new chair has a significance that far outweighs its price.

This is the weekend that each year is celebrated as "the opening of the beaches." Of course, the beaches are always open if you don't mind visiting during the cold, damp days of Jacksonville's winter. And as long as you don't require a wheelchair to get to them.

But even the most maneuverable wheelchair usually has a challenge getting onto a beach. The problem is that, above the water line, a chair's wheels founder in the soft, shifting sand.

The Beach Cruzr doesn't have that problem. Made by Hot Shot Products, a company founded by a man who suffered a spinal cord injury, the Beach Cruzr is designed to ride lightly across the loose sand, giving someone in a wheelchair access to the beach.

Gillrup and I visited Hanna Park Friday morning so he could give me a demonstration of what the Beach Cruzr can do. In the Beach Cruzr, he made the trip from Parking Lot 8 across the soft sand pathway that cuts through the dune and then down to the damp, hard-packed sand below the tide line. …

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