MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Leave it to one courageous woman to finally make Miami Beach’s iconic beach accessible to all.
Miami Beach will be the first beach in South Florida to have permanent beach access for people with disabilities—all thanks to The Sabrina Cohen Foundation.
“It’s kind of like putting a wheelchair in front of a staircase,” explains founder Sabrina Cohen about how inaccessible the beaches have been for decades. “You just don’t go up the stairs.” Cohen has made it her mission to give those with disabilities the ocean access they all deserve, and her mission is personal.
Cohen was the victim of a terrible car accident that paralyzed her in 1992. After the accident, she created The Sabrina Cohen Foundation, whose mission is to make the world more accessible to people with disabilities. “To me, it’s my life purpose,” she says. “It’s clear as day. I know why I got injured was to serve other people.”
Four years ago, she began hosting bi-monthly beach days for those with mental and physical disabilities to safely enjoy the beach. “We are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world,” says an official. “Those beaches ought to be available to everyone no matter their disabilities.”
Now, the process begins to make an accessible beach for all permanent.
Thanks in part to $577,000 in funds from Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins, the contribution of land from the City of Miami Beach, and the free services of architect Kobi Karp, the dream is becoming a reality.
“We worked to get her collaboratively to come up with a plan and a design where people of all abilities can come, enjoy the outdoors, and even go swimming,” says Higgins. “It’s like a unanimous support across the board,” says Cohen. Phase one of the project will include the construction of an ocean-side park with a playground, fitness area, relaxation space, butterfly garden, access to the beach, and more.
Phase two will begin soon after that with an adaptive recreation center.
Construction starts this summer and is expected to be done by next summer in 2022.