By Julie Jones
The warmer months are here and soon we’re all shedding the winter layers and heading outdoors to embrace spring and summer. This time of year also heralds the long school holiday break approaching in the distance where little, and big, people need to be entertained. Fortunately, there’s a range of accessible activities to keep kids happy and ensure the sanity of mum and dad (well, assist in staying sane – but no guarantees!).
The benefits of swimming are indisputable and many aquatic centres now offer aquatic wheelchairs, ramp access into the pool, and some are now equipped with hoists. It’s worth enquiring if your local swimming pool offers these facilities
or check to see if your holiday destination has them.
Acknowledging Australia’s hotter months, many local councils are installing water play at local playgrounds. Some have a water trough, which is cooling and a good activity for side-by-side inclusion with peers. But some councils are going the extra mile by adding splash parks. A child in a walking frame can get in amongst it at the splash park and with some adaptations so can a child who uses a wheelchair. Using a garbage bag or thick plastic to cover wheelchair cushions will make it possible to get wet without drenching a wheelchair. This isn’t 100% guaranteed waterproofing so for those lucky enough to have a beach chair, take that along to the park. Yes, it will draw comments from others but usually admiring ones.
Beach wheelchairs have become common place at many Australian beaches. With the understanding that no one size fits all when it comes to equipment, there are some locations which offer a variety of styles of beach chairs. These are usually free to loan from lifesaving clubs and are available on a first come first serve basis.
Theme parks are joining the accessible movement and now offer a variety of facilities to make a visit easier for guests with a disability. From accepting the Australian Companion Card to installing physical assistance to make enjoying the theme parks easier, there’s been a change for the better in recent years. Sea World on the Gold Coast has offered a dolphin experience designed especially for people with additional needs for some time, but they now have a hoist installed. This assists wheelchair user guests to access the platform to enter the water.
Raging Waters in Sydney (formerly Wet n Wild) offers an aquatic chair and adult size change facilities making a day at the park more comfortable and accessible to all.
It’s always lovely to be a part of a seasonal festival event in your city and many of Australia’s festivals cater well to people with various disabilities. Sydney Festival offers tactile tours to assist with show context for guests with a vision impairment. Guests can book to do a tour, which varies according to the performance but usually involves being able to feel the props, costumes and set with the assistance of the cast. Select performances have captioning and Auslan interpreters for the deaf community. Accessible seating and access to events is also provided for wheelchair users. The Australian Companion Card is accepted.
Getting together with family and friends is always lovely in the warmer weather but it can be a challenge to ensure a child with a disability is safe and isn’t excluded from the activities. Choosing an accessible and inclusive venue will assist with these concerns. We are lucky in Australia to have a range of playgrounds which have a variety of accessible equipment, are fully fenced and some now have a hoisted bathroom facility with an adult size change table.
Getting out into nature
Although many of us are fortunate enough to live within easy reach of the coast,
it’s important to remember the many opportunities there are to explore nature by heading into the bush. The TrailRider is making it easier for people of all ages living with a mobility restriction to access nature. But Parks Victoria are going that extra mile to be inclusive to all abilities. Programs offered include their TrailRider Sherpa volunteers who will assist with using the TrailRider so family members can relax and enjoy the outing too.
If you’re keen to get out on the water, an electric hoist has been installed at Patterson River boat ramps to assist wheelchair users to safely transfer in and out of boats. If caving is more your style, Buchan Caves has a Stairclimber available to visitors with a mobility restriction so they can enjoy Fairy Cave (available to children and smaller adults – booking essential). Parks Victoria offer accessible accommodation, a variety of beach wheelchairs and they even have downloadable social stories for visitors to help in preparation for a day out in their national parks.
So it’s time to emerge from hibernation because there’s plenty of reasons to head into the great outdoors with so many wonderful accessible experiences on offer.