Beach wheelchairs open up Bay in Port Phillip
St Kilda is now home to Australia 's most accessible beach, following Port Phillip Council's launch there today of beach wheelchairs and matting to ensure people with disabilities can enjoy a day at the Bay.
Council has spent about $65,000 on matting and "floating" wheelchairs for both the St Kilda and Port Melbourne beaches . The wheelchairs are free to use after being booked.
"Everyone should be able to enjoy our beautiful beaches ," Mayor Bernadene Voss said.
"As our Council is always trying to improve inclusion and accessibility , we wanted people with disabilities to have the same opportunity to explore and experience Port Phillip beaches ," Cr Voss said.
"Thanks to the matting and 'Mobi-Chairs ', people will be able to access the Bay - many for the first time - and we hope they will regularly return for a great day out."
The initiative could not have happened without the support of the St Kilda and Port Melbourne Life Saving Clubs. Club members will roll the matting out during patrol hours so the wheelchairs can travel safely down to the shoreline.
Cr Voss said the launch was bittersweet as a 10-year-old resident who excitedly participated in a photoshoot for Council to promote a beach wheelchair , now named in her honour, had passed away unexpectedly recently.
"Astrid was looking forward to splashing about surrounded by water at the beach. This day is for her -- and all the other 'Astrids ' who want to enjoy a fun day at the beach."
Council believes the beach wheelchairs have consolidated St Kilda's status as the nation's most accessible beach. The accessibility is enhanced by a Changing Places facility at the new St Kilda Life Saving Club.
Funded by the Victorian Government , the facility includes electronic hoists for wheelchair transfer and an adjustable large changing bench.
The Club is also near the level access tram stop in Acland Street which allows people in wheelchairs to easily enter and exit trams .
Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin, who addressed the launch, said:
"Going to the beach in Australia is a popular past-time that many people take for granted. Sadly, this is not the case for people with disability , particularly those who have physical or mobility disabilities who are unable to get onto the sand or enter the water."
"I am delighted to see Port Phillip Council demonstrate an understanding of the need to be inclusive and provide access to their beaches. This means people with disability can now enjoy a day at their beaches just like anyone else:· Mr McEwin said.
Editorial images are available from our news feed. http://photoability.net/gallery/431-0.html