Accessible matting, which makes it easier for people with disabilities, parents with prams and seniors to navigate to the firm sand, is now being provided at Kings, Coolum and Mooloolaba beaches, as a result of a Council initiative to improve beach accessibility for people of all abilities.
Beach wheelchairs will also be available at all three locations.
This follows the successful roll out of accessible matting and the introduction of a beach wheelchair at Alexandra Headland in April 2017.
The matting and wheelchairs will be available during patrolled hours on weekends from September through until May and will be managed by volunteer lifeguards from the Metropolitan-Caloundra Surf Lifesaving Club (SLSC), Coolum Beach SLSC, Alexandra Headland SLSC and Mooloolaba SLSC.
The accessible matting will provide Sunshine Coast Access Advisory Network (SCAAN) member and Mooloolaba resident Jo Ellsum with the opportunity to go to the beach alone.
Mrs Ellsum lives just 100 metres from the beach and spending time near or in the water swimming, kayaking or canoeing is her favourite thing to do.
“Because I am in a wheelchair, my difficulty is getting across the sand into the water,” Mrs Ellsum said.
“At the moment, my husband carries me from the wheelchair across the sand and into the ocean.
“I’m looking forward to this initiative by Council going a long way toward addressing accessibility issues on our beaches.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mrs Ellsum said.
Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson said the project was a fantastic way to improve access to our beaches for a wider cross-section of our community.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy our world-class beaches and with an estimated 20 per cent of Australian adults experiencing a disability or long-term health condition, initiatives like this are essential to ensure more people of all abilities experience the joy of visiting the beach,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“Council is grateful for the support of the Metropolitan-Caloundra SLSC, Coolum Beach SLSC, Alexandra Headland SLSC and Mooloolaba SLSCs with the delivery of this initiative.
“Every weekend their committed volunteer surf lifesavers will roll out the accessible matting and manage community bookings for the wheelchairs and lifejackets.
Deputy Mayor and Councillor for Division 2, Tim Dwyer praised the efforts of the Surf Life Saving Clubs and the SCAAN for their work in partnering with council to bring this project to fruition.
“SCAAN is a volunteer organisation whose goal is to support the Sunshine Coast to become the most accessible community in Australia for both residents and visitors,” Cr Dwyer said.
“At the same time, our volunteer surf lifesavers selflessly provide their time to help our residents and visitors stay safe on our beaches.
“This project is a wonderful example of the integral role our volunteer organisations play in building stronger communities,” Cr Dwyer said.
Council has allocated $50,000 towards this project, which includes ongoing maintenance of the accessible matting and wheelchairs and modifications to existing ramps at all four beaches.