As a newby to this wheelchair game I was feeling a little reticent and self-conscious about using a beach wheelchair during our recent visit to Noosa in beautiful Queensland. It really had been ages since feeling sand and water under my feet and why else would we be at this Aussie iconic beach destination (apart from food and champagne of course, but I can get that in Melbourne)?.
We tracked the wheelchair down at a nearby hotel, and for a mere gold coin donation this rubber wheeled jalopy was ours and I was on the pathway to salty watery freedom with a small dose of terror.
After Gaz and I transferred me into a well used and older style beach wheelchair, I quickly acclimatised to the relative mid level comfort of a bar against my lower vertebrae, slightly awkward extended foot rests and the weird feeling of being lower than usual. Rolling through the lane way onto the beach path was reasonably easy for all involved.
Adding to the characteristic beach sounds of excited children, small swells rushing up to the shoreline and a gull or two was the highly hilarious flubberty, flubberty sounds of the large balloon type polyurethane rear wheels. Hitting the soft sand was when the enjoyment started becoming a little more Leanne sided with poor Gaz pushing through these loose sand particles. Of course it was worth the effort (for me) as the water felt delicious. We stayed in one position just soaking up the surrounds and allowing HP’s breathing to return to normal.
You know how when you stand still for too long at the edge of the water and your feet sink further with each tidal water movement?. It happens to wheels as well. To free the chair from the sand Gaz took great delight in ferociously tipping me back and turning so that I was temporarily parallel to the sand staring at the sky. My screams were not from enjoyment.
It really is fantastic that beach wheelchairs have become more and more commonplace. As I obviously had not even considered them before I became less mobile I am even more impressed that they are available in many beaches in Australia now – a lot of local councils and shires (including my closest on the Mornington Peninsula) offer free hire but booking is required. Beach matting is also becoming more commonplace thanks to crowd funding, corporate investment and some Councils getting on board around Australia.
Accessible Beaches Australia is one fantastic organisation that has only been up and running since early 2016 and has achieved the opening of the first 2 accessible beaches in Queensland (Noosa and Burleigh Heads) and the second accessible beach in Victoria at Williamstown with beach matting available during peak times and beach wheelchair availability as well. You can register your support for your local area to be made more inclusive on their website. Another blog that is very informative on inclusive travel and destinations with beach wheelchair information is Have Wheelchair Will Travel which I thoroughly recommend to those with an interest. We will definitely be searching for an accessible beach in the future and really look forward to the next beach experience.
Beach mat image is courtesy of Accessible Beaches and is the Burleigh Heads accessible beach open day event April 2016.
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Take care ’til next time,