GREENS disability spokesperson Jordon Steele-John has welcomed accessibility improvements at Leighton Beach, but is pushing for more disabled facilities across WA ahead of summer.
This week the City of Fremantle secured a $50,000 grant from the Department of Social Services for beach access matting, wheelchairs and walkers, and a sensory tent at Leighton Beach.
The funding will also help the Fremantle Surf Life Saving Club develop its new disabled Nippers program, and the Disabled Surfers Association to hold more inclusive surfing events.
Mr Steele-John hopes the funding will kickstart other accessibility improvements across the city.
“I’d love to see more outdoor places like South Beach and Port Beach improved with beachmatting from the carpark tooceanside,” he says.
“I’d also like to see more publicly accessible bathrooms across the state. These simple changes would mean many more people can enjoy our outdoor places.”
DSA Perth president Bruce Peel said the $50,000 grant would provide a better quality of life for people with disability and mobility challenges, providing access to Leighton Beach over the warmer months.
“While we install beach matting from the grassed amphitheatre to the ocean’s edge for our four annual events, this semi-permanent solution will provide a significant benefit to the wider community and ensure dignity for people with disabilities and with mobility challenges,” Mr Peel says.
Each year the Association holds four inclusive surfing events at Leighton Beach, attracting more than 200 participants and between 300-400 volunteers.
Fremantle deputy mayor Andrew Sullivan said the $50,000 funding would help kick start the wider Leighton Beach Access Project, which aims to “create an inclusive environment at the Leighton Beach precinct where people with disability can connect and participate in community life.”
Mr Steele-John, who uses a wheelchair, is calling on the state and federal governments to provide more funds to improve accessibility in all areas of life.
“We need to improve our public transport system – stations on the Fremantle line like Karrakatta station are exceptionally difficult and often dangerous to navigate in a wheelchair,” he says.
“There’s been many occasion where I’ve tried to visit restaurants and bars with friends, and have to change plans because the venues have not been physically accessible.
“The restaurants, bars, outdoor places and heritage that make up the spirit of Fremantle should be accessible.”