Sinking your feet into the sand and waiting for the waves to touch your legs is one of the great joys of going to the beach.
Some people in the community don’t get that experience.
But now that has changed thanks to Mobi matting at Shellharbour North Beach.
Mother of Lili Morgan and disability advocate Melissa Smith has passionately campaigned to have Mobi matting installed at the beach and she was proud to see it rolled out at the weekend.
Lili is diagnosed with a rare birth defect called complete agenesis of the corpus callosum and a respiratory condition.
“Now my 14 years old daughter will not be embarrassingly carried by her mother down onto the sand,” Ms Smith said.
“Instead she will be like every other teen down the beach using this cool blue mat to get into the water.”
Ms Smith, who is a member of the Shellharbour Council’s Disability Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee, said the mat would allow everyone to access the beach because it was a safer, flatter surface than the soft sand.
“People can push their pram on it so their not trying to do a balancing act with a screaming kid, a pram and overfilled beach bag,” she said. “People can access it in their wheelchair, with a standing frame, a walking stick or even crutches.
“There will be no more sitting on the sidelines on a grass hill or even worse the car park. A beach trip will no longer be deemed too hard and no one needs to be left at home.
“The mat shows that change is needed and that making all beaches accessible to the community is a priority and even more so a human right.”
Shellharbour Surf Life Saving Club president Wayne Cavanagh launched their Mobi chair to help people move down the mat towards the water.
Shellharbour Council purchased the mat and Shellharbour Lions Club raised money to purchase the chair, which was donated to the surf club.
Ms Smith said there was more work that needed to be done such as making an accessible change room, more equipment, mats, storage options and volunteers but she was pleased to see the mat on the beach.
Ms Smith is in talks with Wollongong City Council to get the mat installed at other beaches and the Shellharbour Lions Club are working towards getting more mats on Illawarra beaches.
Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba said the mat was a “wonderful” addition to the beach.
“People can forget that there are some in our community who can’t access the beach,” she said. “The mat opens up the beach and makes it more accessible.”