In celebration of International Wheelchair Day on 1 March 2020, the City’s Recreation and Parks Department in partnership with the Western Cape on Wellness (WoW!) Partnership Programme of the Western Cape Government, launched a universal access beach mat at Muizenberg Beach. The mat was donated by Western Cape Government Health via its WoW! Programme to support people with disabilities to get onto the sand and closer to the water.
Manufactured in France, the Mobi-Mat is environmentally friendly as it is made from 100% recycled polyester. Its lightweight roll-out technology, creates a pathway for outdoor access for wheelchairs, baby prams and walking chairs. The bright blue colour makes it easy to identify from a distance and the non-slip surface provides an easy transition from the pathway over the sand to the ocean. The length of the mat is approximately 50m and cost R390 000 to procure.
‘This is the launch of the first-ever Beach Access Mat in the province, accordingly, it is expected that the installation of the Mobi-Mat would facilitate the empowerment and social inclusiveness of persons with mobility impairments through their participation in coastal recreation and leisure activities. In addition, the mat should positively influence the attitudes that prevent differently-abled individuals from participating in the community, said the Western Cape Provincial Minister of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.
‘As a Department, we recognised the need to give dignity and equal access to all members of society to our award-winning coastline. We are excited that these advancements in technology exist and would like to thank the WoW! Programme of the Western Cape Provincial Government who have so generously made this equipment available to us to improve the lives of those who depend on wheelchairs for mobility. Not only will make the beach more enjoyable for those with a disability/differently-abled, but it will also add value to mothers with baby strollers and the elderly,’ said Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Zahid Badroodien.
This project is being piloted at Muizenberg Beach which is the City’s flagship differently-abled-friendly beach. Muizenberg has demarcated parking for the disabled, ramps, hand railings, ablution facilities and an amphibious wheelchair, which helps those with a disability to submerge directly into the water.
“WoW! promotes inclusive healthy lifestyles for all. This specialised mat enables people using wheelchairs, and other aids for mobility, independent ease of access to the beach. The launch of the mat marks another step forwards towards co-creating inclusive healthy-lifestyle enabling environments. We are grateful to our partner, OCAL Global, for the support in procuring the Mobi-Mat” said Dr Frederick Marais, Deputy Director: Increasing Wellness, Western Cape Government.
The beach mat will now undergo a series of tests as part of the pilot project, and will only be available for public use once all legal documentation has been finalised. It is anticipated that this process will be concluded by the end of March 2020.
In addition to facility improvements, an important priority for the universal access project is to provide environmental education and awareness programmes for the differently-abled. Two programmes have already been developed: a rocky shore biodiversity programme for those with a visually and physically disability and a waste programme adapted for the visually impaired.
The Department has also been conducting extensive research on universal access best practices around the world. An internal audit of all coastal facilities has since been conducted, in order to put a plan in place to ensure that as many beaches as possible become differently-abled-friendly.
“Developments and improvements in universal access to the City’s recreational nodes such as beaches and parks is a longstanding priority for the Recreation and Parks Department. Ultimately, the goal is to have these mats on every beach, although that will take some time to fund and implement”, said Cllr Badroodien.
For enquiries about universal access along the coast and any further queries, please contact the City’s Coastal Coordination Unit at [email protected].
For enquiries about the WoW! Healthy Lifestyles Partnership Programme, please contact team WoW! on [email protected]