Shane Hryhorec, managing director for mobility advocate group Pushmobility, has a simple dream – to make sure everyone can enjoy beaches, surf carnivals and ocean-side triathlons.
According Hryhorec, more than 20 per cent of the Australian population cannot go to the beach because of disabilities, mobility situations or simply advancing age, and he believes that in a country renowned for its swimming culture that number should be much lower.
“We’re heading to Newcastle to speak to people in the hope that we can have the beaches in the region be more accessible in the near future,” he said.
“Our point is that if someone lives five minutes from the beach – like many in Newcastle do – you don’t want to have to drive all the way to Bondi in Sydney just to be able to get down onto a beach.
“There are so many people in the country that can’t actually take advantage of our beautiful beaches and that’s not great when it’s what we’re known for. The more beaches that can be made accessible the better, and when one person who couldn’t go before can get to the beach their whole family and group of friends benefits too.”
Souths Merewether will be hosting a half-day seminar and presentation on the topic of beach access in Newcastle, covering inclusions at carnivals and events as well as simple accessibility concerns for beach-goers with disabilities.
Hryhorec explained surf club members, life savers, council members and lifeguards should all attend the event to “better understand how to help people with disabilities access Newcastle’s beautiful beaches”.
“We’re going to be holding a seminar, and show interviews with people with disabilities, shares their stories, and gets across the message of inclusivity,” he said.
“There’s also a lot of training wrapped in, and understanding how to communicate with people who have disabilities is key for this kind of progress. We speak about what people can do to contribute to this progress, and show examples from around the world of the changes at international beaches.
“We just want to show how this benefits the local community, and give people information to be able to take out into the city and to the council. It creates a platform where we can all work together to make a region more welcoming and accessible for all.”
It’s also an important message for one of Newcastle’s key figures, Alex McKinnon, who has long advocated for accessibility in the region.
When Danny Buderus, a fellow former Newcastle Knight, held his 40th birthday at the Dickson Park clubhouse no one considered McKinnon would require four men to carry him from the ground floor to the event hall up a flight of stairs.
Change is needed, McKinnon believes, and he said he’s looking forward to seeing Newcastle’s waterfront become a fully accessible area as soon as possible.
“Anything that lets everybody go in and use the facilities is great,” he said.
“When you are in a wheelchair, you can’t get everywhere and it’s just a reality of life. It doesn’t really worry me, but obviously when someone helps you, when people take action to make things more inclusive, it’s a great feeling.”
The event will be held on August 11, from 10am, at Souths Merewether on Llewellyn Street. The venue is completely wheelchair accessible.
To attend the presentation RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0249050700.