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Foreshore fun for all with accessible beaches

Published 15 November 2022
An inclusive summer is on the way with free matting and floating wheelchairs at St Kilda and Port Melbourne beaches.

Under the fifth year of Port Phillip Council’s accessible beaches program, beach matting has been rolled out at the St Kilda and Port Melbourne Life Saving Clubs (LSC) until 28 April 2023.

The matting helps people who need extra traction on the soft sand when using a walking frame or wheelchair, for example, or pushing a pram. Bookings are not required to use the matting, which is rolled up on Tuesdays from 5 -11 am so the beach can be cleaned.

The Accessible Floating Beach Wheelchair can be booked until 25 April 2023. The chairs must be used during LSC patrol times and users need to have at least one support person with them – two if they plan to enter the water.

Accessible Beaches not-for-profit organisation officer Bern Walker praised the Port Phillip program for bringing beautiful beaches to many people with disability.

“Making beaches accessible is about being inclusive and enabling everyone to be included in life,” Ms Walker said.

“A day at the beach is a quintessential part of Australian life, which many take for granted. When councils are on board with beach accessibility, it sends a strong message that diversity is a high priority and that everyone in the community is valued.”

Ms Walker said regular feedback from people who would otherwise have missed out on a beach trip is moving. “One woman who visited Port Melbourne beach said she had not been in the water for a decade and that Council’s program allowed ‘a little miracle to happen’.”

Activist and writer Anthony Bartl loves visiting St Kilda for its energy, live music – and fantastic foreshore.

Mr Bartl, who guides an electric wheelchair with his chin, said beach accessibility programs make him feel more involved in community life.

“Being able to participate in activities takes a bit of my disability away,” Mr Bartl said.

The Victorian Government funded the Changing Places toilet facility at the St Kilda LSC, which has a changing table and electric hoist, “is a must” when Mr Bartl plans a beach day. As well as providing an accessible toilet, the facility’s hoist helps with transfers to the beach wheelchair.

“Without that, I wouldn’t be able to experience it. I want to do as much as I can and get really involved in summer – enjoying the sea breeze and being around other people.”

For more information and to book the Accessible Floating Beach Wheelchair, go to: https://www.portphillip.vic.gov.au/explore-the-city/beaches-parks-and-playgrounds/accessible-beaches

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