Beach accessibility is essential for many Australians living with disabilities. But what exactly is an accessible beach?
Australia is home to many wonderful beaches, and most of us living here get to enjoy these beaches freely and without reservations.
But for people with disabilities, a day at the beach is quite a different scenario. There are over 4 million people diagnosed with a form of disability, and going to the beach requires a lot of planning, forecasting, and a certain level of anxiety.
An accessible beach helps these individuals enjoy our beautiful coastlines. But what is it exactly?
Let's take a look at what makes a beach accessible in Australia.
What is an accessible beach?
An accessible beach is any beach with the necessary conditions to support the well-being of people with disabilities. These beaches are equipped with amenities to ensure the safety and comfort of those with sensory, physical, psychosocial, and other forms of disability.
Accessible Beaches Australia has a great directory of Australia's disabled-friendly beaches, its amenities, and its ratings. If you're planning a day out at the beach for yourself or a loved one with a disability, here are some features you should have in an accessible beach.
Wheelchair and walker hires
Mobility around the beach is a crucial part of accessible beaches. For those with mobility limitations, beach wheelchairs such as the Mobi-Chairs allow them to move around the beach and even float in the water.
For those who require walking assistance, beach walkers can offer support while walking on sand or uneven surfaces. These walkers have soft balloon wheels and a larger frame for stability. For example, beaches such as the one in the City of Rockingham, Western Australia and the Sunshine Coast Council in Queensland offer free beach wheelchairs and walkers for hire for people with disabilities.
An accessible beach should have multiple disability parking located conveniently to the beach access. To park in these parking spaces, you must have an Australian Disability Parking Permit from the Department of Trasport in your respective state.
Some beaches are smaller than others, so the disability parking spaces on these beaches may be limited. If you're planning a trip, a good idea would be to call the local council for more information – especially if it's a weekend.
Accessible pathways and access
Some beaches are inaccessible for those who cannot take the stairs. An accessible beach is equipped with ramps and pathways as an alternative for those in a wheelchair, making it easier for them to travel down to the beach.
Many beaches also offer complementary beach matting services to the water's edge. These mats are installed on demand to offer a stable, non-slip surface for those wheelchairs, mobility aids, or prams on the sand. Available times for beach matting vary between each beach, so it's important to take note of the times.
Some beaches are located on terrains, making it challenging to build ramps or pathways safely. Fortunately, there are plenty of beaches in Australia with wheelchair-friendly access – such as Cronulla Beach in New South Wales.
Accessible showers and toilets
An accessible beach should include disabled-friendly showers, toilets, and changing places. Compared to a regular toilet and shower, these facilities should have a large space and extra features such as:
A height-adjustable changing bench
A tracking hoist system (you would normally have to bring your own hoist)
Space enough for at least two people and a wheelchair
Toilet rails and handles
For example, Port Phillip Bay in Victoria has an excellent shower and accessible toilet for mobility-restricted individuals to use.
Shade and water
Carrying a beach umbrella or any kind of portable shade may be challenging for those with limited mobility. Hence why a beach with built-in shade and plenty of accessible fresh water is one of the most important considerations for an accessible beach.
Ideally, the beach should have a shaded space with an available water cooler. Beaches with food outlets nearby are also great for easy food supply. An example of such a beach is the Hillarys Marina in Western Australia, which offers shade and water and is located meters away from restaurants.
Planning out a day at the beach can be challenging for people with disabilities and their families. While we may be busy surveying which beach is the most accessible, be sure to check the weather! The last thing you want is for all that planning to go to waste because the beach is too windy or cold.
If you're looking for a visual-friendly app that tells you about the weather without any visual frustrations, Weather Map is your solution. Weather Map is an Aussie-made weather app that believes in providing the best weather-viewing experience - without ads! Download our app on the App Store today.