Aussie beaches missing one 'simple' thing causing thousands to miss out

A huge majority of beaches are not accessible to those with a disability.

Going to the beach, being covered in sand and feeling the sea breeze, it's a huge part of Australian life and an activity many of us enjoy all year round. Yet thousands of Aussies can't ever go to the beach due to a lack of accessibility — and all it would take is one simple thing to change that.

"I reckon for probably about 500 beaches around Australia, all they need is beach matting... it's simple," Shane Hryhorec, Founder of Accessible Beaches, told Yahoo News.

Left, beach access is made available to a male wheelchair user. Right, two women and children have a picnic on the beach near beach matting.
Beach access could be increased for thousands of Aussies with the introduction of beach matting. Source: Supplied

Beach mats are specially designed mats which are installed on the sand to provide easier access to the edge of the water, allowing wheelchair users and others living with a disability to participate in Australia's favourite pastime.

And it wouldn't only be for their benefit. After a beach mat was installed at Noosa's Main Beach in Queensland, all beachgoers experienced firsthand how it can help a visit to the beach.

"I saw people with walking sticks, I saw mums with prams and also families with trailer buggies with all their belongings and they're rolling down the path. To leave it there and make it usable for everyone is really, really important," Shane said.

Blue beach matting on the sand from the path to the edge of the ocean.
Beach matting is rolled on top of the sand to allow users a smoother surface to travel on. Source: Supplied

Beach accessibility costs roughly half of bus stop installation

There's certain infrastructure required to make beaches accessible such as disabled parking, bathrooms and compliant ramps, as well as shade and drinking water — all of which the "majority" of beaches have already.

The addition of beach matting and beach wheelchairs simply maximises accessibility in these public areas. Kitting out a beach to make it permanently accessible can cost as little as $30,000 and often less if the infrastructure is already in place, with a bus stop installation usually costing double this amount, Shane said.

He believes it's "not an unsolvable problem" and more funding would revolutionise our beloved beaches.

"The Greek government recently committed $25 million Australian dollars equivalent to making 300 beaches accessible, the Australian Government has committed $0... even though our whole country is wrapped around beautiful coastline," he said.

He created Accessible Beaches, an online directory, which lists all the accessible beaches in the country to help point the disabled community in the right direction.

"We've got such a high percentage of people with disabilities that live close to the beach... everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy the sand, sun, and surf," he said.

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