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Often, clients are looking for the right support workers to accompany them as they get out and enjoy the summer. We look at one organisation working hard to ensure everyone can enjoy Australia’s beaches.
Beach-lover Shane Hryhorec discovered how limited his options were to enjoy the sea and sand when an accident in 2007 left him with a broken neck and requiring a wheelchair. The experience prompted him to establish The Accessible Beaches Campaign, a project with the ambitious vision of making most patrolled beaches in Australia wheelchair accessible by 2020. To date, the organisation has helped activate at least 25 wheelchair-accessible patrolled beaches across Australia and facilitated five of the largest beach access events in the world.
What makes a beach truly accessible?
It’s about more than just matting, ramps and accessible parking and bathrooms; several factors contribute to ensuring a beach is truly accessible. To ensure a quality beach experience for everyone, other facilities need to be incorporated into plans, including access options for people with visual impairment, beach chairs, appropriate shade, adult change tables and visual alarms such as flashing lights to provide warnings to swimmers who are hearing impaired about sharks and swimming between the flags.
Storage options are also important, as is specialized equipment (such as mobi-chairs) to easily transition from pathway to sand to water, as well as disability awareness training for surf clubs and lifeguards. While you will still rarely find a beach that incorporates all of these, the number of beaches with some accessibility continues to grow.
Shane is not the only one campaigning about the right for everyone to enjoy a dip in the ocean. In late 2018, Sydney resident Kate Swan gathered a 25,000-strong petition to roll out a permanent 60-metre mat at iconic Bondi Beach.
Where to head for the seaside
Australia’s beaches span thousands of kilometres. Although there’s still a long way to go to improve access for all Australians and visitors, some stretches of sand have great facilities available.
Whether you’re a resident of one of our cities or from a regional area, if you’re looking to head to the beach this Summer, check out the Accessible Beaches website for a complete directory of the best places to go, including a list of specific facilities available at certain spots.
In the meantime, here’s a selection of some of the accessible seaside locations.
Williamstown Beach and Altona Beach both feature 24×7 Accessible Beach Matting, beach wheelchairs and accessible bathrooms, showers and parking.
MT Martha Beach on the Mornington Peninsula will also feature 24×7 Accessible Beach Matting (until Easter 2019) and mobi-chairs on weekends.
St Kilda Beach and Port Melbourne also feature beach matting and mobi-chairs.
Burleigh Heads Beach on the Gold Coast features accessible beach matting, bathrooms, parking and beach wheelchairs.
Alexandra Headland on the Sunshine Coast features accessible beach matting and accessible bathrooms.
Hervey Bay features accessible beach matting and a floating beach wheelchair and Port Douglas features accessible beach matting.
New South Wales
Ballina Lighthouse in Northern NSW, Avoca on the Central Coast, Fingal Beach and Toowoon Bay feature accessible beach matting. Newcastle (Cooks Hill SLSC) features beach wheelchairs.
Seacliff Beach and Normanville Beach on the Fleurieu Peninsula feature mobi-chairs and a slatted access platform.
Semaphore Beach and Largs Bay feature matting on trial through dunes to soft sand.
Rockingham Beach has accessible matting and beach trekker wheelchairs.
Geraldton, Madora Bay and Avalon beaches all feature accessible beach matting, as do Keith Holmes Reserve and Town Beach, Mandurah.
Feeling inspired to head out for some fun in the sun? Post a job to find a support worker on Mable who will help you get there.