Madeira offers Portugal’s first “beach-for-the-blind”

Portugal’s Madeira archipelago is opening the country’s first beach specially-adapted for blind people.

Local councillor Domingos Rodrigues told Lusa news agency that the blind-friendly system is being launched at Praia Formosa in Funchal next week and will give “people with visual problems a chance to swim freely, autonomously and with excellent security conditions”.

In a nutshell, the system works by giving visually-impaired beachgoers a wristband, which activates sound signals when they swim near three buoys that mark the beach’s “safe area”. Swimmers will thus know when they are approaching waters deemed unsafe for them.

The wristband also has an emergency button that summons lifeguards if the swimmer runs into any difficulties.

The beach is also to be equipped with a wooden platform to make it easier for blind as well as handicapped people to get into the water.

For now, the beach will offer five wristbands but more will become available if needed, Rodrigues guaranteed, adding that the system is a “great asset for the archipelago’s blind” and might even be “important for Madeira tourism”, as many of its visitors are “seniors”.

Costing €50,000, the project was approved last year in Funchal’s ‘Orçamento Participativo’ which allowed local citizens to suggest and vote for their own projects.