WELCOME MAT: Burleigh Surf Life Saving Club is giving people requiring wheelchairs and other mobility aids unprecedented access to enjoy the beach.
WELCOME MAT: Burleigh Surf Life Saving Club is giving people requiring wheelchairs and other mobility aids unprecedented access to enjoy the beach.

Disabled beach access at Burleigh

IN JUST the first two weeks of a three-month trial at Burleigh, a beach access mat to help people with mobility restrictions and special beach wheelchairs has made quite an impact.

But, to date, seniors haven't taken full advantage of the mat, which also forms a supportive base across the soft sand for those needing other walking and mobility aids.

"Just the fact the equipment is there on the beach and that this is an option has been a really positive conversation piece," Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park Surf Life Saving Club vice-president Tony Martin said.

The free equipment is available 9am-12pm on Saturdays until the end of April, and leads down to the hard sand or the water's edge, depending on the tide.

It is then up to families or carers to help the person enter the water if they wish to.

Mr Martin said the beach was such an integral part of Gold Coast life that the club felt it was imperative people in wheelchairs or with other mobility restrictions, their carers and families had access to enjoy it.

One of the club's members was one of the first to use the mat, and Mr Martin said watching his face was proof of the importance of the project.

"It was like it was the best day of his life," Mr Martin said. "There's no way that mat is not going to be a part of our club's future."

About 10 families used the mat for wheelchair access in the first weeks, generally using their own chairs, and there were already a number of future bookings, according to club captain Peter Whitty. One man planned to bring his father, who had suffered a stroke.

The trial is a joint venture with Gold Coast City Council, and Mr Whitty said it was vital people with feedback or suggestions contact council to ensure the service continued and was the best it could be.

For instance, Mr Whitty said the mat was kept out for slightly longer on the second week due to public feedback. A shade tent has also been added to provide shelter at the end of the mat.

"We are getting a lot of interest, and it's just going to get stronger," Mr Whitty said.

"But it is a learning process for everyone. We have council's support, but we need the public to really get behind it."


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