Disabled go down to the sea
DISABLED ocean lovers will have greater access to beaches at Brunswick Heads following the purchase of a new 4WD beach wheelchair.
The $4000 chair was bought by the Disabled Surfers Association with assistance from the Northern Rivers Community Foundation and Byron Shire Council.
Owen Danvers, who gave the chair a test run at Torakina Beach yesterday, said it was a huge bonus for disabled residents and visitors of Brunswick Heads.
“For a lot of people, just to be able to get your feet wet is an experience, especially for those who’ve never been on the beach before,” he said.
The all-terrain chair can be used both on the beach and in the water.
Ted Kabbout, of the Disabled Surfers Association, said one of the catalysts behind the wheelchair was conversations he had with an old surfer who couldn’t get around much any more because of injuries.
“He always wanted to get on the beach, but some people just can’t do that unless we provide something like this,” Mr Kabbout said.
Mr Kabbout said the chair could be also used by the elderly.
“With the ageing population there are a lot of people who haven’t been down to the beach for a long time who can now think about getting there again,” he said.
Mr Kabbout said the purchase of the chair was the first step in a push to make Brunswick Heads beaches more accessible for the disabled.
In the long term, he would like to see accessibility ramps built at various locations on the river and beaches.
“Brunswick Heads is such a good location for these things to be in place. It’s the perfect fit. It doesn’t cost a huge amount,” he said.
First on the agenda, however, is finding a storage shed for the wheelchair.
At the moment it is in Mr Kabbout’s trailer.
“I’m happy to bring it to the beach for whoever wants to use it, but what we really need is a storage area that can be accessed with a MLAC key,” he said.
Mr Kabbout said storage possibilities were the community centre and surf club, or a small extension on the public toilets at Torakina Park.
He invited anyone with ideas to contact him through the Disabled Surfers Association.
The Brunswick Heads beach wheelchair is one of several now available in our region.
At Ballina, two beach wheelchairs are available from the Tourist Information Centre in River Street; while at Byron Bay, a beach wheelchair is accessible at Clarkes Beach.