Wheels to Waves


Funding promotes inclusion by bringing wheels to the waves

A NEW initiative promoting inclusion and equality is supporting people with disabilities to hit the waves, with a $10,000 grant provided by the Tasmanian Community Fund (TCF) to Surf Life Saving Tasmania helping fund therapeutic beach access wheelchairs.

Wheels to Waves aims to provide people with disabilities with the opportunity to access the beach and ocean through a network of custom-made wheelchairs managed by Surf Life Saving Tasmania and the clubs across the state.

The project launched at Kingston Beach in late March, with Porth Sorell, Ulverstone and Bicheno being the other three clubs to host one of four beach access wheelchairs.

The funding will also go towards the construction of infrastructure that will enable 24/7 accessibility for the wheelchairs.

“As soon as we took delivery of the beach wheelchairs back in January, they were pretty much packed up and transported to Sandy Bay to be used by four excited participants at our Starfish Nippers Program,” Surf Life Saving Tasmania training and community programs manager Leanne Johannesen said.

“The chairs first outing was a huge success, with families expressing their gratitude to the project team for heading up such a great initiative that is Wheels to Waves.

“The most heart-warming moment was hearing of a family who would struggle to all go to the beach together because the daughter was unable to access the sand.

“Now I hear that after using the chair at Starfish Nippers, that the whole family now regularly book a chair to go to the beach as a family – it has been lifechanging for them.”

The initiative is part of a Special Needs Inclusion Strategy led by Surf Living Saving Tasmania, which will provide young people with disabilities and their families with the opportunity to participate in a recreational activity that enables children to take part in swimming, catching waves, using lifesaving equipment, beach runs and exercises.

The Wheels to Waves program will contribute to Surf Life Saving Tasmania’s ultimate aim of reducing aquatic injury and death, and provides a long-lasting sustainable aquatic inclusion strategy.

“Wheels to Waves was a project that we saw as great value to many people in the Tasmanian community,” TCF chair Sally Darke said.

“One in five Tasmanians live with a disability and these chairs are promoting equality, inclusion and accessibility by providing people living with restricted mobility the chance to enjoy themselves at Tasmania’s beautiful beaches.”

The beach access wheelchairs are available to hire at no cost and can be booked through https://www.slst.asn.au/be-safe/beach-safety-top-tips/beach-access-wheelchair/.