STOCKTON Surf Life Saving Club has become the first in Australia to order a unique amphibious wheelchair, which will allow people with disabilities and reduced mobility to venture into the ocean.
SLSC president Trevor Upton said the club expected the $4500 chair to be delivered later this year ahead of the start of summer, when it will be available for supervised use on weekends.
“People with disabilities are no different to any other person – and I believe everyone should be given the chance to have a bit of fun in the surf,” Mr Upton said. “We do have a wheelchair that we can wheel along the sand, but this new chair can be taken into the water and allows you to feel the movement of the waves.”
Chriselle Clement of Fullerton Cove photographed her daughter Marlee, 14, trialing the chair at Stockton earlier this month and posted it to Facebook, where it has received more than 25,000 likes, 600 comments and been shared more than 3500 times. “We’re now looking at buying one of our own,” Ms Clement said. “Marlee is profoundly disabled so does not walk or talk, but she does communicate through crying and smiling. In that chair, she was pure joy.”
Mr Upton was on holidays four weeks ago in Port Macquarie, where he saw an ad offering visitors the free use of Steve and Julia Jenkins’ KSM Beach Mobility Chair. The couple had designed it to help a friend with cerebral palsy. Mr Upton said Mr Jenkins had built only three chairs. Two are in Port Macquarie and one is in Grafton.
The chair comprises a seat manufactured from an acrylic canvas that is rot, mould and salt water resistant and UV stable; a lightweight and sturdy frame; four balloon tyres and a handle for steering.