Nationally known disability activist Sabrina Cohen is in an online race for a $25,000 grant that will be used for a fully accessible beach. Voting is on now through June 3, 2015, and anyone with a Facebook page can vote.
Cohen, a quadriplegic, is among the 200 finalists in State Farm Neighborhood Assist, a national contest in which the winner will be decided by online voting. Voting is currently underway now through June 3, 2015. The top 40 vote getters will each receive $25,000, their share of State Farm’s philanthropic $1 million program.
“It is a huge honor to be a finalist. Just getting into the top 200 is an enormous accomplishment as well as an acknowledgement of the important and innovative work we are doing,” said Cohen. She was chosen as a finalist from 4,000 applicants.
Cohen is founder and president of the Sabrina Cohen Foundation (SCF), the non-profit organization that would be the recipient of the State Farm grant.
She has appeared on the “Today Show,” CNN, NPR, and dozens of other television and radio shows. She has lobbied Congress in support of the disabled and she has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical research and other health-related causes. For these achievements, she was dubbed a national “Women Doing Good” by Self Magazine; an American Health Hero by WebMD; and she also won the "Overcoming Adversity" category in the America Inspired competition.
Born in Miami Beach, Cohen lived the life of a beach girl, always in the ocean until a car accident at the age of 14 made it necessary for her to use a wheelchair. She was, in essence, barred from the beach because the beaches there are inaccessible to wheelchairs, as are virtually all in the U.S. and around the world.
But Cohen, who has worked with the City of Miami Beach on accessibility issues, decided this was unacceptable. She approached city officials with a plan to create a wheelchair accessible beach and they agreed. The beach is still under development but last fall she was able to finally lead a group of people triumphantly back to the beach. It was the first time she had been on the sand and in the ocean in more than 22 years.
“I am proud of Miami Beach and I think our beaches are the most beautiful in the world. After my accident, I was heartbroken at having to give up the beach. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever be able to go back to the beach,” Cohen said. “It was a truly emotional day for me and getting drenched in the ocean was the greatest feeling in the world,” she added.
Nearly all of the beaches in the U.S. are inaccessible to wheelchairs, although there are some that have mats that do enable wheelchairs to get onto the sand, but at the edge of the dunes. Cohen’s beach will not only be accessible, but also provide the opportunity for all people to enjoy a variety of adaptive water sports in a safe environment.
“Our first fully accessible beach, in which wheelchair people can not only get out in the sand but also enjoy water sports, will be the first such beach in the State of Florida “and we also want it to be a model for the nation," Cohen said.
The beach will also have a full array of programming, including adaptive yoga, art therapy and hand cycling. In addition, SCF is constructing a fully accessible playground on the same site; so disabled and able-bodied children can play together and learn to enjoy each other’s similarities and differences.
To vote for Sabrina Cohen’s “Beach for All” to win the $25,000 grant, just click on the Sabrina Cohen Foundation website.