Summer, the great outdoors and disability

Summer in New Zealand is officially here, which means beach days and generally being outdoors is a must.

But when you have mobility issues, outdoor activity options become limited and that quintessential ‘Kiwi summer’ isn’t always that easy to live out.

The information online about accessible beaches, walking trails and nature reserves around New Zealand is also very limited. I also don’t trust the information they put out. I have been to too many places that have been labelled as disabled friendly but when I go there, it isn’t. Sometimes I can’t even see the water. Very awkward. Our nation is made up of islands. There has to be a decent number of beaches we can go to without it being awkward.

But as with everything, life is what you make it. Disabled people and their families are really great at living life regardless of the circumstance.

Personally, I did go through a phase when outdoor activity was out of the question. When I was newly diagnosed it was really difficult being surrounded by activity when I couldn’t participate. Now it’s different. Now I don’t understand why people don’t appreciate nature and all its wonder. Enjoy it while you can.

My family’s standard beach is Long Bay Beach. We have been going there every year for as long as I can remember – long before my diagnosis. I’ve been to a few beaches around Auckland but this one remains the most disabled friendly one I have come across. I don’t know if it’s a fate thing that my traditional family beach ended up being great for access, but there we have it.

The grass area is fairly flat and narrow. The distance between the car park and the water is small and disability parking and bathrooms are easy to find. At the edge of the grass area, there are benches to sit and watch the water if, like me, sand is a no-go. This, to me, is what a disability friendly beach is. I understand that the natural landscape doesn’t always allow for this, but the effort to improve where we can is a decent investment.

Access to beaches has definitely improved over the years, with more information available and better facilities being built. But we still have a long way to go to provide the adequate information and resources we need. We deserve to enjoy everything about the summer too.

 

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