Imagine a beach where there is beach matting to make access easier AND the choice of three varieties of beach wheelchair. It sounds like a dream, or somebody’s wish-list doesn’t it?
I’m here to tell you it now exists on Avoca Beach on the Central Coast, just over an hour’s drive from Sydney. Two weeks ago the beach matting was rolled out and the vision of a determined Occupational Therapist, Peta, became a reality. Avoca Beach is definitely setting a new standard in beach access.
We were packed up ready to visit as a family yesterday but sadly AJ became sick just before we left so she and I stayed home. Hubby and BJ packed up BJ’s Sandcruiser beach wheelchair and head up the coast to check it out and test drive the matting.
The boys were impressed with the matting. Hubby said it made the beach that much easier even with the Sandcruiser’s beach wheels. We like the idea of the matting for several reasons. We don’t have much problem pushing BJ in the Sandcruiser but he is pretty light at around 55kgs and Hubby is strong. I am sure the matting would make pushing a beach wheelchair much easier for many. The matting is also excellent because it makes access easier for parent’s with prams (we used to take AJ to the beach in the pram when she was a baby so she could sleep in the shade), those with a walking frame and anyone who is unsteady on soft sand (think an elderly person whose balance isn’t as good as it used to be).
The life guards roll out the matting on weekends when they put the flags up. It is hoped that in the future it is available on weekdays as well but for now it is only available on weekends during life guard hours.
Very few beaches have more than one beach wheelchair at a location. Avoca has three. They have the Sandcruiser (the same as BJ’s chair), the Beach Bomber which is a self-propelling chair and a Hippocampe which is aimed at younger children. As far as I know Avoca is the first beach in Australia to use the Beach bomber. In the past many of our readers have indicated that they like to remain independent and therefore would like the option to self-propel, so this chair will tick that box. The beach wheelchairs are available to be borrowed every day of the week during life guard hours. Peta says, “if you can’t see the chairs (or the mat) …. “ask a life saver””
Avoca Beach has disabled parking spaces, wheelchair accessible bathrooms and plenty of eat-in and take-away food options.
I am looking forward to going back soon as a family so I can check everything out for myself.
It is wonderful to see the progress that has been made in regards to accessible and inclusive activities since BJ was born. I look forward to continuing to see more options, activities and facilities. What I have learnt along the way is that these options only become possible when there is a person who is dedicated, determined and can inspire a team of people to support them in their vision. I hope Peta continues to get the support she deserves as we would love to see these facilities replicated on beaches around the world.
The beach matting and equipment has been funded with a grant Peta sourced and the volunteer lifesavers have embraced the project happily. You can follow the progress of Avoca Beach Access for All on their Facebook page.
If you haven’t used a beach wheelchair before you may like to read my previous post about what it means to our family having our own beach wheelchair. I also did a review of the Sandcruiser beach wheelchair and the smaller Sandpiper in a blog post which you can read here.
What do you think? Would these facilities make it easier to get down on to the beach for you? Is there anything else you would add to this set-up? Let me know in comments or over on our Facebook page.
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Seana Smith says
Really thrilled to read this post. How fantastic that one person can make such a big difference, and now there’s a model for other beaches to follow.
And, purely selfishly, when I am an old lady and can’t get around so well, I want to be able to use matting and chairs to get myself down to the water too. Will share.
Thanks Seana. I think Peta is amazing to get this project off the ground. Hopefully others will see the merit and it will be replicated around the world. It sounds like you won’t let anything get between you and the ocean. As Dory (from Finding Nemo) wisely says, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming”