Case study: Accessible beaches for all Tom Bevan, Access and Inclusion Officer, Hobsons Bay City Council

I imagined that I’d only be able to roll by the beach to watch everyone else enjoying themselves and take in the sea air, Alex, a nine-year-old wheelchair user. Hobsons Bay City Council’s Accessible Beaches Project pushes the boundaries of universal design in a complex natural environment. In a first for Australia, beach matting is available twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, and beach wheelchairs, including water chairs are available at Altona and Williamstown Beaches. This universally designed infrastructure supports people with a disability and provides universal access for older people, those with prams, and toddlers. Most importantly, it has empowered families of people with a disability to spontaneously share a day at the beach without having to sit on the sidelines. Over the last two summers Council has led the way in beach accessibility state-wide and continues to be a catalyst on a national level. Through inter-council collaboration and with the support of many stakeholders, the beach access movement has gained momentum and seen some fantastic wins. This presentation will outline a four year case study capturing the trials and tribulations of endeavouring to work towards two fully accessible beaches by 2020. A highlight this summer was the introduction of an adult changing facility completing Altona’s accessible hub and providing the platform to deliver activities such as accessible snorkelling sessions to the community. Six Victorian beaches now run beach access programs in 2018. There were none in 2015. There are huge positive health and wellbeing impacts of having an accessible beach available, a conduit to 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. Hobsons Bay will continue to lead the way in making beaches for all by providing the opportunity to be spontaneous and actively participate in the community rather than watch from the sidelines.