For most Australians summer is synonymous with our great beaches, ribbons of brilliant white sand and azure water that’s the envy of the world – but each summer one group of Aussies are excluded from enjoying it.
One in four Australians have a disability, and for many this means they can’t access our beaches and fully participate in Australia’s summer lifestyle, something most of us take for granted.
That’s why Australia’s most successful female Paralympian, Ellie Cole, has teamed up with APM Communities and the City of Joondalup to drive greater awareness and make more of our beaches accessible for people with disability.
A working group, supported by APM Communities, a Partner in the Community with the NDIS, has been focussed on working with community members, local government and surf life-saving clubs to improve beach accessibility and creating an inclusive community.
Pictured (L to R): Paralympian and APM Ambassador Ellie Cole, standing with Special Olympic Swimmers Maddison and Max, with Paralympian Ben Popham.
Ellie Cole, APM’s Ambassador said:
“For someone who has always loved the water, it is heart-breaking that I’ve always felt a barrier to accessing the ocean.
Everybody deserves to enjoy a day at the beach. For many, walking on sand is extremely challenging and can be enough to prevent people with disabilities from enjoying one of Australia’s favourite pastimes.
APM’s accessible beach project, which is unrolling Mobi matting across Australian beaches, is a great initiative which will bring the joy of ocean and sand to so many more lives.”
PM LAC Team Leader Paige Wilson said there were a range of initiatives that could make our beaches more accessible for all Australians.
“It’s not just about accessing the beach using a wheelchair or a mobility aid, it’s about the transport, parking, accessible toilets and creating and being an inclusive community,” she said.
“The working group members with the City of Joondalup and Mullaloo SLSC have taken great steps to provide an accessible and inclusive beach area and I look forward to building on successes so far so that everyone can enjoy a time at the beach.”
Joondalup Mayor Albert Jacob said the City was proud to be an active and founding member of the Accessible Beaches working group, in partnership with APM and local Surf Clubs:
“Beach accessibility is a big focus of the City of Joondalup’s 2021/22-2023/24 Access and Inclusion Plan,” Mayor Jacob said.
“We have been working closely with APM, local Surf Clubs, People with Disability and other key stakeholders to increase beach access within the City."
"Improvements that have been made to date include the formation of the Accessible Beaches Working Group, installation of Changing Places installed at Sorrento Beach North, supporting the Mullaloo and Sorrento Surf Life Saving Clubs to successfully apply for grants to each purchase a Beach Wheelchair and All-Terrain Walker, and installing lockers at both locations to store accessible equipment.
“A visit to the beach is a quintessential part of Western Australian life, and the City wants everyone to have equal access to our 17km of pristine coastline.”
Jacqueline McGregor from Mullaloo Surf Life Saving Club Accessibility and Inclusion Working Group said:
“As a club, we aim for everyone of all abilities to feel welcome and valued. This starts from when a potential new member comes into contact with the club for the first time, through to participating in club life.
The club supports participation in everyday life including the opportunity to meet new people and better connect with your community. The Accessible Beaches project delivered with our partners has further enhanced the clubs commitment to be fully inclusive and accessible for all members of the community.”
In support of the Accessible Beaches project, a group of current and former Paralympians, along with other people with disabilities, gathered at Mullaloo Beach on Sunday November 27th from 9.30am to 12 noon to raise awareness of the benefits of the scheme, and to encourage other councils and surf clubs to do the same.