Hobsons Bay City Council, Victoria’s Accessible Beaches Project continues to push the boundaries when it comes to a complex natural environment.

In a first for Australia, beach matting is now available 24/7, and beach wheelchairs, including water chairs are also available at Altona and Williamstown beaches for the 16,000 residents who live with disability. The infrastructure also provides access for older people and those with prams and toddlers. It empowers families of people with disability to spontaneously share a day at the beach without having to sit on the sidelines, according to council access and inclusion officer Tom Bevan. As well as special matting imported from France, there is a changing places facility which features a hoist for transfers, an online booking system and an accessibility upgrade to the surrounding urban area.

Speaking at the UD conference, Bevan shared how through inter-council collaboration and with the support of many stakeholders, the beach access movement has gained momentum and seen some fantastic wins.

“Six Victorian beaches now run beach access programs in 2018. There were none in 2015,” he said. “There are huge positive health and wellbeing impacts of having an accessible beach available, including promoting social inclusion amongst the community, raising awareness around the needs of people with a disability, strengthening family connections as well as enabling independence for users, all important aspects that contribute to overall community wellbeing,” he said.