Tony McRae

Tony McRae

Former Minister for the Environment; Climate Change; Disability Services

    Life's a beach for people with disabilities.

    9/12/2006 10:15 AM
     
    9/12/06

    Western Australia’s famous beach lifestyle is about to become much more enjoyable for hundreds of people who use wheelchairs or mobility aids.

    Specially designed beach wheelchairs that can be fully submerged in the ocean and plastic matting allowing wheelchair access to the water, will be available throughout summer at Leighton, North Cottesloe and Swanbourne.

    Disability Services Minister Tony McRae today launched the project and said this was another great step towards community inclusion for people with a disability.

    “The beach wheelchairs, combined with the access matting, are a tremendous idea that can only add to the lives of people with mobility difficulties,” Mr McRae said.

    “Standard wheelchairs are not designed to travel on sand and wheelchair users have enormous difficulty just getting on to the beach without a great deal of help.

    “Now people have six very different chairs to choose from, to see which best suits their needs and the path of polyester matting to the water will assist both the specially designed chairs and everyday chairs.

    “The sand and surf are a great part of our culture and this trial helps people who use wheelchairs or have a mobility difficulty to be included in that important part of WA’s lifestyle.”

    Surf Life Saving WA president Mike Smith also welcomed the development.

    “We are proud to be part of this pilot because our organisation is not just involved in saving lives but also building great communities,” Mr Smith said.

    “Any initiative that provides access for people of all backgrounds to safely enjoy our magnificent beaches is one to which we give 100 per cent support.”

    President of Disabled Surfers Association of WA Bruce Peel, celebrating the ‘Let’s Go Surfing Day’ at Leighton today, said the project provided more than just a practical way for people with disabilities to enjoy the beach.

    "The wheelchair and matting project will give back some freedom to access the beach far more easily and with greater dignity,” Mr Peel said.

    The $70,000 project is funded by the State Government and developed by the Disability Services Commission, WA Local Government Association, Surf Life Saving Western Australia, Disabled Surfers Association of WA, Town of Cottesloe, City of Fremantle, City of Nedlands and Curtin University Occupational Therapy Research Centre.

    A roster system detailing when and where the chairs and matting are available can be found on the Disability Services Commission’s website, http://www.countusin.com.au and also Surf Life Saving WA’s website, http://www.mybeach.com.au

    There are also plans to trial a beach wheelchair in Esperance later this summer.

    Feedback from all users including people with disabilities, their families, friends and carers and other beach goers will be sought, with Curtin University of Technology evaluating the project.

    Minister's office - 9213 7150