The City of Fremantle has rolled out new equipment that will make it easier for people with disability to enjoy Leighton Beach this summer.
In harmony with the theme of the 2021 International Day of People with Disability – toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID world – the beach equipment will be used at the Disabled Surfers Association’s first event of the summer at Leighton Beach this weekend.
The equipment, funded through a $50,000 grant from the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, includes beach access matting, new wheelchairs and walkers, Gecko Traxx (portable wheelchair accessories to enable off-road access), and a sensory tent to provide a quiet breakout space for people with sensory challenges during events.
The funding is also being used to support the Fremantle Surf Life Saving Club develop its new Nippers program for children with disability, and help the Disabled Surfers Association of WA (DSAWA) grow their inclusive surfing events.
DSAWA Perth Branch President Bruce Peel said the new equipment will make it a lot easier for people with disability to experience the joy of the ocean.
“We’re an organisation that takes anyone with a disability out for a safe and fun surfing experience and enjoy what other Aussies take for granted every day,” Mr Peel said.
“It’s a beautiful feeling, the freedom of being out there in the water.
“The new equipment really helps us out because we won’t have to put out as much beach matting as we would normally do, plus it’s good for people to be able to get down to the sand and be close to the water instead of just sitting there watching family or friends enjoying the ocean.”
While the International Day of People with Disability is tomorrow, DSAWA’s first surfing event of the summer is on Saturday 4 December.
Each year the City of Fremantle assists DSAWA to deliver four inclusive surfing events for people with disability, which attract more than 200 participants and up to 400 volunteers to Leighton Beach.
Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said a day at the beach and swimming in the Indian Ocean were pleasures that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy, and were particularly valued by the community during the COVID period in WA.
“Leighton Beach already has accessible toilets and change rooms, ACROD parking bays and clear, accessible paths to the facilities and café,” Mayor Fitzhardinge said.
“It’s wonderful that the new beach matting and wheelchairs will now make it easier for people with disability to get right down onto the beach and into the water.
“I’m really pleased the City has been able to partner with the Disabled Surfers Association and the Fremantle Surf Lifesaving Club to deliver the Leighton Beach Access Project, which will hopefully encourage more people with disability to enjoy our beautiful beaches.”
Earlier this month Fremantle Council adopted a new Access and Inclusion Plan that aims to actively address barriers faced by people with disability and people from diverse communities.
The plan includes initiatives to improve physical access to City buildings and facilities; provide equitable access to City services, events and information; and ensure all people with disability are provided with the same opportunities to be included and active participants in community life.
Opening soon in the City of Fremantle’s new Walyalup Civic Centre will be Fremantle’s first Changing Places facility – a secure and private facility for people with disability who need extra space and assistance to use the bathroom.
It has features like an adult-size, height adjustable change table; a hoist; automatic doors and enough room for two people to assist.
The Changing Place will be on William Street and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For additional convenience, an ACROD parking bay will be located right outside the door.