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Disabled unwelcome on California beaches?

June 11, 2000: With the stroke of a pen, federal officials closed off half the beach access for many disabled people by shutting down to motorized vehicles a long-used, 3-mile stretch of beach in remote Northern California.

Bureau of Land Management officials were clear that the closure had nothing to do with protecting endangered species or near misses with pedestrians by wreckless drivers. The decision essentially came down to aesthetics – hikers wanted a primitive experience and didn’t want to see vehicles on the beach.

With the exception of 3 miles of beach in Pismo Beach on California’s central coast, hikers have 1,100 miles of sand where vehicles are excluded in the state.

“The BLM has effectively told everyone with a physical disability that they’re excluded from a public beach,” said one of the lawyers who unsuccessfully fought the closure. “For some people, the only way they can get out there is with a motorized vehicle. They’ve been excluded. That’s the bottom line.”

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