OCEAN TOWNSHIP – Under “Penny’s Law,” a new bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Vin Gopal this November, Jersey Shore towns that go above and beyond to make their beaches accessible to beachgoers with disabilities would be empowered to advertise those beaches to the disability community with an official State label or sign.
Named for Penny Gnesin, a resident of Asbury Park who knew firsthand the shortage of handicapped-accessible beaches in New Jersey, the bill would direct the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop new guidelines for beach accessibility to accommodate the needs of those with disabilities, including recommendations for ramps, restrooms, showers, boardwalks, surf chairs, parking, and any other facilities deemed appropriate.
Once completed, these guidelines must be published online and distributed to every county and municipality with publicly-owned beach or waterfront property. Any beach in compliance with these accessibility guidelines would be allowed to display a uniform label or sign expressing its compliance.
“Everyone deserves to be able to enjoy a day at the beach, but too often, disabilities can prevent many of our friends and family members from even getting onto the sand,” said Gopal (D-Long Branch). “I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to work alongside Penny to draft this bill before her passing earlier this year, and look forward to making our Shore even more inclusive. By setting forth these guidelines and rewarding local beaches that adopt them, we can help every New Jerseyan enjoy the recreational and social opportunities of our beautiful coast, and help accessible beaches spread awareness of their amenities across the Jersey Shore.”
Under this bill, the DEP must also consult with individuals or organizations who are experienced in assisting those with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the course of developing these guidelines, and to establish a process through the DHS to do so.