They have funky names, like Sandcruiser and Hippocampe. And they’re coming to a beach near you. Ultra-modern beach wheelchairs are part of a nationwide revolution to cater for the almost 20 per cent of Australians with disabilities.
I say, about time.
Multi-generational travel means each extended family group will have one, maybe two, people with limited mobility.
Bringing your own wheelchair can be problematic: some airlines refuse to release it from the cargo hold during stopovers. (To know your rights, see flying-with-disability.org/)
Virgin Holidays’ Special Assistance team offers advice on accommodation, transfers, adapted car hire and a new complimentary service – beach wheelchairs for hire in the Caribbean.
It was the brainchild of employee Nicola Davis, who’s in a wheelchair: “I really missed being able to spend time on the beach with my children and realised many people were missing out on one of the most important parts of a holiday.”
In Australia, you can hire them for free in Queensland at Gold Coast Recreation and Sport; in Western Australia from the surf lifesavers at Joondalup; and the Visitor’s Information Centres at Inverloch and Cowes in Victoria.
For one brief moment of lunacy, Surf Lifesaving Australia banned wheelchairs because of liability insurance costs. Now some councils, like Warringah on Sydney’s northern beaches, are fighting a rearguard action to make Collaroy the world’s first all-access precinct for disabled people.
Cruise lines are also getting on board. New ADA regulations in the United States, which took effect in 2010, protect the rights of passengers with disabilities. If your child is in a wheelchair, or requires oxygen, look for the bigger and newer ships.The good thing is, most cruise ships have medical staff on call 24/7.
When it comes to accommodation, HotelsCombined has a list of the best properties for parents whose kids have a disability. For example, Southern Ocean Retreats at Deep Creek Conservation Park in South Australia has a specially designed Ridgetop Retreat with easy access for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Meanwhile, Quest Hawthorn in Melbourne offers a pantry shopping service for the less mobile.
And the Hilton in Cairns has ramp access, strobe alarms and the automatic opening of bedroom doors from the inside.
Just look for the International Wheelchair symbol: the standard AS 1428 denotes whether accommodation fits the legal criteria for accessibility.
As Hubert H. Humphrey once said, ” … the moral test of government is how (it) treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick; the needy; and the handicapped”.
The same can be said for the tourism industry.