Christine Tongue: Do people like me have to view the sea through bars forever?

Viewing the sea

Overheard recently on Broadstairs seafront: “I don’t know why disabled people want to go to the beach — you’d think just sitting here looking at the sea would be enough!”

Well, my friend Amy, who died  in December, would have loved to give an answer. She had lung cancer and the last time I saw her was in a wheelchair on the seafront, looking at the sea. She had no breath to use the steps, or transport to get to the harbour. The lift was closed, so her wish to just spend a short while on the beach — where she’d been with her grandchildren every summer for ten years — was impossible.

As for me, my view of the beach from a mobility scooter is through the railings. So how can we keep precious things like lifts open for those that need them so badly?

There’s an argument that facilities like toilets and lifts should be paid for by the users. Another overheard remark: “I wouldn’t mind paying to use the lift.” Well let’s look at how that might be done.

A paid council employee stands with a money bag and a set of tickets. Or there’s a fancy slot machine. Wow! That simple!

Well, if it’s that good an idea, why stop at the lift? You can already pay for a sunbed and beach umbrella. Toilets are an obvious choice next as they used to be paid for — spend a penny could become spend 50p — and don’t worry about the families using the back of the beach huts to save money….. beach patrols, paid for by the wonderful new source of revenue, could look out for cheaters.

But why not charge to go on the beach itself? More tickets on sale at the top of the steps or on the harbour? And even more jobs for the beach patrol, checking who sneaked on for free? And if you have to be rescued by lifeguards, well a grateful £50 would be appropriate.

In Victorian Ramsgate you had to pay to use the promenade with the best views. Brilliant idea! Fashionable. Kept the riffraff out.

The Margate Harbour Arm could charge admission, especially for a Turner sunset.

I think I’ve solved Thanet’s financial problems.

But hang on a minute — who’d actually come? One of our biggest sources of income is tourism and who wants to spend their money in a mean spirited place where they charge you to smell the flowers, and taking your family to the beach for a day could cost a fortune. Imagine two adults, two small kids, up and down on the lift, four quid, lavs for all three times, at least, £6 and little Jocasta being hauled out of the sea on her lilo perhaps a tenner. Who will come?

We do actually pay for our facilities through our taxes and the richer we are the more we pay —in theory. We don’t expect individuals to pay for things we want everyone to be able to use like roads, parks, crossings, steps to the beach etc etc.

Disabled people are among the poorest in the country and they might be asked to pay for their only route to the beach. Is that fair? Do people like me have to view the sea through bars forever?


  1. No, Christine, you don’t.
    You’ve already described how your mobility scooter managed to make it down (and up) the hill.
    And if it can’t, then take the free, low floor; accessible Loop bus to Ramsgate Harbour, where you can roll along Harbour Parade, stopping at the (accessible) Wetherspoons if you like, and onto the prom, right by the sea.

    • You can’t get a scooter on the bus. Only wheelchairs. And I don’t have the arm strength to wheel myself far. It’s not thst easy!

      • With respect, you can get a scooter on a bus. My daughter does. Granted, not one of those huge ones like a small smart car, but the smaller size will.

          • So what you’re basically saying is that £100,000s should be spent on resurrecting the Ramsgate lift because you don’t know how to reverse or turn round your mobility scooter on the bus?
            I’ve seen my daughter do it. I’ve seen people on the Loop bus do it.
            Stagecoach provides low-floor, accessible buses, equipped with ramps. Its policies permit mobility scooters. The drivers are most helpful and obliging.
            But, for you, that’s not adequate?
            May I suggest that in your kitchen you set up a little “obstacle course”, and practice navigating your scooter in confined spaces.
            The alternative is that huge amounts of money is spent on the lift; money that could be better spent (because it would help more people) on dropped kerbs.

    • Very well said Phyllis. The Ramsgate lift takes you to EXACTLY where someone can get out of a vehicle.

  2. Yes unfortunately we do have to view the sea through the bars, as there is a huge compassion deficit in everything from government to society , we are viewed as expendable, our paying of taxes for so many years means nothing as facilities are cut to the bone, and equal opportunities becomes not seen as affordible!

  3. ‘Do people like me have to view the sea through bars forever?’ – No, use the slope and view the sea from the beach like everyone else.

  4. Fantastic strawman argument there Christine.

    To take us back to reality, if you want lifts, accept the fact that there needs to be a small charge for everyone using them, especially as both Ramsgate and Boradstairs beaches are accessible pretty much directly from a vehicle, especially Ramsgate.

  5. The fact that able-bodied people think their opinion matters above all else is where the issue lies. Disabled people could benefit hugely from the lift being repaired as could many other people who use wheels ie prams. It makes total sense to repair and maintain a lift that is already there; what’s the point of having a lift that doesn’t work other than to look back at it and it’s pointlessness existence?

  6. If you can manage the slope in Broadstairs how then can you get onto the beach if you are in a wheelchair? At the moment the boardwalk ends at the foot of some stairs. The boardwalk needs to be extended in all sorts of directions to make the beach more accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. I am shocked by the replies which suggest that it’s ok for disabled people to have less access than others. If someone wants to go to their local beach they should be enabled to do so.

  7. Keep at it Christine. So frustrating that the infrastructure for quickly transporting disabled people to the beach IS there but isn’t functioning. I’m imagining a family or group of people with, say, one wheelchair user amongst them – a working lift would mean that instead of access to the beach being a logistical challenge it’d be fun. Enjoyable for the lone disabled visitor too.
    My Mum had MS, I’d say that anything that makes life better for disabled people also helps their friends, family and carers.

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