Walking along the sand and down to the water is an experience many residents take for granted.
But people with a disability or those who have mobility difficulties can not always access the beach or foreshore.
That’s why Wollongong City Council has developed a plan, the draft Beach and Foreshore Access Strategy 2019-2028, to provide an outline for ways it can practically give more access to beaches.
The council will aim to improve safe and accessible beach and foreshore access, provide more information about the beaches and work with partners to improve access at Austinmer, Thirroul, North Wollongong and Port Kembla beaches.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said there was a need in the community for improved beach access.
“There is quite a sizeable proportion of people with a disability in our community who want to access the beach, ocean and foreshore amenity,” he said. “There is a need for improved access for those people and we have to look at ways to meet that need.”
He said improvements such as matting, ramps, parking, access for people with visual impairment and adult change tables were needed but there could not be provided overnight because they were expensive.
Cr Bradbery said once the strategy went onto public exhibition then the council could budget for the improvements.
“Council would also need support from the state and federal government in the form of grants,” he said.
As part of the strategy, the council will develop a concept design for the four beaches that consider accessible parking, amenities, ramps, connectivity and shade.
It will provide a range of beach wheelchair, matting and storage options and will work with surf clubs and lifeguards to provide disability awareness training.
Council staff will also look at accessibility at foreshore bus stops and footpaths. They will also conduct shade, seating and shelter and accessible parking audits of patrolled beaches.
As part of the strategy, the South Coast Disabled Surfers Association, wheelchair users, members of the deaf and blind community and carers of people with a disability were consulted.
One wheelchair participant said, during the consultation, that matting was easier for carers because it meant less loading and unloading and wanted a combination of matting and a beach chair.
A deaf participant said visual alarms such as flashing lights were needed to warn people of sharks and to swim between the flags.
Previously the council has focused on providing disability parking, disability amenities and amphibious wheelchairs at beaches.
Cr Bradbery said he was proud of the ways in which council had made the city and council events more accessible but said there was always “room for improvement”.
“The council will try its best to put in strategies to make life easier for people with a disability because many residents take for granted accessing the beach and foreshore,” he said.
Councillors will vote whether to adopt the strategy at Monday’s council meeting.