FREMANTLE sailing club denies exploiting people with disabilities in order to expand its activities at the northern end of popular South Beach.
Junior sailing program manager Denis Cullity says the club’s proposed launch ramp 75m out from the beach along the existing groyne will be accessible to everyone, not just club members.
Last week Mr Cullity rocked up to the Herald with disabled sailing club volunteer Jim Cairns to counter claims made the day before by critics.
“Currently, young sailors have to sail around what we call the gutter, a narrow alley of water which runs past our power boats and into the ocean,” Mr Cullity says.
“You have to be enormously skilled to sail up that gutter which stops a lot of young people tackling it.”
He says the club is prepared to contribute up to $1 million to build the 75m-long ramp, which would consist of $500,000 worth of rock from its nearby groyne.
The rest would be sought from the state and federal governments.
“The club will vest land to the City of Fremantle,” he says, adding it is prepared to lose parking bays and build purpose-built change rooms for people with disabilities on Curtin university’s marine research site opposite the carpark.
A hydraulic lift for people with severe disabilities could also be installed at the proposed launch site.
“Certainly, there is some resistance to the proposal, but everyone who uses South Beach will use this facility,” he says.
“At some stage, they will be disabled by no other reason than ageing.”
Mr Cairns, 53, crippled in a motorcycle accident in 1985, says moving the 75m spur further along the groyne will isolate disabled people from families on the park.
“We’ve been searching for a place for the past five years, and this ticks all the boxes,” he says. “There is parking, shops and I can go swimming without feeling that I’m disabled.”
Mr Cullity is critical of a council decision to conduct a survey as part of its community consultation process: “How can they survey for opinion if you haven’t explained what is on the table? I am in discussions with Fremantle to hold an independently facilitated open forum on the proposed universal access (thank you for the suggestion).”
by CARMELO AMALFI