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Accessible beach matting trial brings smiles (and tears)

Accessible beach matting trial brings smiles (and tears)

Amy Deguara enjoying the beach.

Amy Deguara enjoying the beach.

Something pretty special happened at Alexandra Headland Beach last weekend as quite a few people who hadn’t been able to get into the ocean for years were able to have a dip.

The distance from the footpath through the sand and into the ocean may as well be miles for some people with disabilities, those in wheelchairs, the elderly and anyone unsteady on their feet.

Some of this distance was bridged on Saturday with a Sunshine Coast Regional Council trial of wheelchair accessible beach matting. The matting provided for the trial was 15 metres and ended tantalisingly close to the water’s edge.

Spontaneously, volunteer lifesavers – both on and off duty – family members and beach-goers pitched in offering to take those who wanted to go the extra few metres into the ocean so they could enjoy waves crashing over them.

The beach matting was excellent, offering a stable, durable way for wheelchairs to traverse soft sand while the community bridging the last few metres from the end of the matting into the ocean created many magical moments for those at the water’s edge.

The trial was an unbridled success, not least of all because of the amazing sense of community we enjoy here on the Sunshine Coast.

There are many emotional stories from Alex on Saturday morning; not least of all young Chase who appears in Jason O’Pray’s video (below), or 15-year-old Ryen who hadn’t been in the ocean since he was five.

One young man, usually confined to a wheelchair, was taken into the ocean for a swim and said he wished he could surf. The lifesavers grabbed a boogie board and this man then spent 20 minutes catching waves. His only complaint was the waves were not big enough!

There was an older man who said he had not been able to get into the ocean for two decades while another woman went in the water once, wanted more and came back down the mat and had lifeguards help her into the water so she could feel the waves on her body.

The unbridled joy, the squeals and happiness and the tears of joy at seeing people re-claim their right to have a simple dip in the ocean had a profound impact on many of us there.

Council is now seeking to trial a second beach matting product to ensure the most appropriate beach matting is used. It is hoped this trial can be conducted in the next few weeks.

Local Councillor Jason O’Pray has committed $2,500 towards the cost of the matting while 121 Care has kicked in $1,500. All going well, it is likely the Sunshine Coast Regional Council may be able to roll out matting at two Sunshine Coast beaches before Christmas.

Funding support from the public and community groups will encourage Council to introduce the matting onto more Sunshine Coast beaches, so come on Sunshine Coast, #letsmakethishappen.

To see some footage of the morning, check out Councillor Jason O’Pray’s video here: https://www.facebook.com/jason.opray/videos/1079689858814641/




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