Supporting wheelchair users to hit the beach this summer

By Kate Reid, 19 December 2017 , Comments

There’s something special about a day at the beach. Sea breeze in your hair, sand between your toes, the sound of seagulls in the air – it’s an experience that’s quintessentially Australian.

For wheelchair users, getting off-road can present a challenge, but there are options to support people with disability to enjoy the sun, sand and surf this summer.

Creating a more inclusive society, where everyone gets to enjoy a fun day at the beach, is an important part of the Northcott story.

In April this year Ballina resident and fundraiser Tracey Everingham Armstrong donated a 50m Mobi-Mat to Northcott. The matting is used at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina to allow wheelchair users to get their wheelchair over the sand. Funds for the mat were raised through Tracey’s annual Melbourne Cup luncheon, along with a FundAbility grant through Northcott. This type of matting is used at several beaches across NSW including Avoca Beach on the Central Coast.

Councils across the state – including Northern Beaches, Shoalhaven, Byron Shire, and the Central Coast – also loan out all-terrain wheelchairs for use at local beaches. Councils can be contacted directly to enquire about beach wheelchair availability.

Northcott has played a crucial part in the history of all-terrain wheelchairs in Australia. In 1999 Northcott Equipment Services designed a wheelchair capable of travel in the sand, water and snow. Ian Shearman, the Northcott Equipment Services manager at the time, had seen a similar chair in the US and suggested the development of what would become the Freewheeler, a name that was decided on through a staff competition.

Gabe Costaganna, who still works with Northcott, made the first six chairs using wheels imported from the US. The manufacture of the Freewheeler was then passed on to Yabby Industries.

Northcott currently hires out Freewheelers and Hippocampe All Terrain wheelchairs through Northcott Equipment Services. They are very popular during the warmer months so if you’d like to try one this summer,  get in early by contacting Northcott on 1800 818 286.

Happy beaching!

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