The Red Cross in Port Lincoln unveiled their new beach matting and floating beach chair for people with disabilities at the official opening on Friday January 11.
The matting is used to allow people of all abilities to access the beach freely, and the beach chair can be used to help people enter the water and swim with aid.
The project was spearheaded by Red Cross Volunteer Janet Whittaker and Regional Manager Kerry Schubert.
The apparatus and mat cost about $20,000 and it has taken two years for the idea to come to fruition.
“The chair and mat access is for anybody who is mobility impaired,” said Mrs Whittaker.
“It was time Port Lincoln needed this,” she said.
She said the mat can be rolled over the sand, and the beach chair allows people to feel the sensation of being in the water.
“I hope that the community will make appointments and use it, it would be wonderful,” she said.
The opening held speeches from Mrs Whittaker and Mrs Schubert, and Port Lincoln Mayor Brad Flaherty also spoke of the inclusion it will give to all residents who are now able to access the beach.
The speeches were then followed by a test of the new apparatus, with Elisabeth Healy being the first to try the new chair.
Mrs Healy, who had not been able to swim in the sea since her amputation nine years ago, said it was a ‘brilliant’ feeling to be in the water.
“I can’t explain, it’s awesome,” she said.
“I now know I can do something that everyone else can do.”
Mrs Healy returned to the beach after her swim to a round of applause from people attending the event.
“We’re still normal, we just do things in a different way,” she said of living with a disability.
Mrs Healy said it was also a great opportunity for younger people with disabilities.
“Children no longer have to sit and watch their siblings swim from the beach,” she said.
She said she hopes to get the message out about the beach access.
“Let’s hope the Red Cross get inundated with calls,” she said.
The Red Cross will operate by the yacht club along the foreshore during weekdays, and the beach matting and chair can be booked free of charge by calling 8683 0551.
Mrs Whittaker said she was thankful to the sponsors Bendigo Bank, the Port Lincoln Health Advisory Council and the City Council for supporting the project.
An all-access mat is installed permanently over the summer period at Tumby Bay, with a beach wheelchair available also.