How to stay safe on the beach for people with disability

Sunshine, sand, and the sea breeze – a day at the beach can be a fantastic way to relax and unwind. It’s also a great opportunity to soak up some vitamin D and enjoy the health benefits of being outdoors. 

But some beaches in Australia might be harder for people with disability to get to and enjoy. That’s why we’ve put together these tips on how to stay safe on the beach.

Staying safe on the beach with disability

Can someone in a wheelchair swim at the beach?

Many places in Australia have accessible beaches now, which means it’s easier for people with disability to enjoy an inclusive experience in the water. 

These places have accessible facilities, such as:

  • Special mats called beach matting that create a firm path to the water’s edge so your wheelchair can easily access the dry or wet sand.
  • Beach wheelchairs, also called a mobi chair. These specialised wheelchairs have wider tyres to help you get around the sand faster than standard wheelchairs. You may have to book in advance to check for availability.
  • Ramps that provide easy access to the beach
  • Accessible car parks
  • Accessible showers and toilets
  • Wheelchair-accessible changing facilities. These facilities have wider doorways, grab bars, and lower benches, making them easier to use.
  • Access to shade and freshwater

Some places also include an inclusive playground or pool nearby where you can enjoy the sunshine and the sound of waves, without going to sea.

While these features make enjoying the beach much easier, remember that extra care and supervision are still important when swimming. Below are some safety tips.

Beach safety tips for people with disability

Plan your visit

Before heading to the beach, plan your trip to ensure a fun and safe beach day. Research beaches in your area that offer accessible facilities we mentioned above. Know about the beach access, how far it is from the car park and how far the accessible facilities are from each other.

Also, check the weather forecast for the day. Look out for strong winds, high tides, and extreme temperatures.

If you’re a wheelchair user or use crutches and other devices for mobility, check if they are suitable for sand and salt water.

If visiting during the summer months, check if the area gets too crowded. You may be limited in your movement if it is.

Prepare your equipment

Once you’ve found an accessible beach, pack these items for a safe and comfortable beach experience:

  • sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays
  • plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout your time at the beach
  • beach chair or towel to sit on and an umbrella for shade
  • extras like a first-aid kit, snacks, beach toys, and a waterproof bag for your belongings

Have a beach buddy

When going around the accessible beach or entering the water, let your buddy know. This person can be a

  • friend
  • family member
  • lifeguard
  • caregiver

Having a buddy with you provides support and ensures someone can call for help if needed. 

Pay attention to your surroundings

When you visit an accessible beach, you might see colourful flags and signs in different areas. They tell you important information about the water conditions, any dangers to be aware of, and areas where it’s best to swim.

Here’s a quick guide to what the flags and signs mean:

  • Red and yellow flags mean it’s the safest place to swim. Lifeguards are watching this area closely and can help if you need it. 
  • A red flag only means swimming is not allowed. The water may be dangerous, so it’s best to stay out.
  • A yellow flag means you must be extra careful in the water. There might be strong waves, currents, or other hazards. Look for a nearby sign that explains what to watch out for.
  • Yellow and black diamond-shaped signs are warning signs. They might tell you things like unexpected large waves, strong currents, or jellyfish.
  • A red circle with a line through a black image is a regulatory sign. It tells you about things you’re not allowed to do, like “no swimming outside the flags” or “no dogs allowed.”
  • Blue and white square signs are information signs. They might tell you about the beach’s facilities, like toilets or playgrounds.

Ask a lifeguard during their patrol hours if you need clarification on anything. They are there to help answer any questions about the signs, beach conditions, or anything else that makes you unsure. 

Plan how you will communicate

Before heading to the beach, talk to the people you’re with about anything you might need help with. This could be getting in and out of the water, moving around on uneven ground, or taking breaks often.

You can agree on some simple hand or body signals everyone understands. This can be helpful if you need to tell someone something quickly or quietly.

If you can use a phone, have it with you all the time so you can easily communicate.

Follow instructions

Lifeguards are there to keep everyone safe. When they give instructions, listen carefully and follow them. They might tell you not to be in a specific area, stay out of the waves, or clear the water for a rescue.

Beaches often have signs with important information, like warnings about:

  • No swimming zones
  • Fish to watch out for
  • Strong waves

Read these signs carefully and follow the instructions to stay safe.

If you’re unsure about anything, ask a lifeguard, beach staff member, or someone you trust.

Speak to Mambourin and plan your summer today

Are you looking for fun activities that are perfect for people with disability? Then get in touch with the team at Mambourin! Our leisure and recreation and social and interest choices are there to help you get out and enjoy your summer, meet new friends and have some fun!

Contact us here, or call (03) 9731 9200.

Other areas of interest

Asset 1