When a simple act means so much


Day out: Antony O’Donnell enjoyed getting into the water at Sorrento. Picture: Supplied

ANTONY’S eyes said it all – they were alive, shining, animated. The cerebral palsy sufferer was thrilled at being able to get to the water’s edge at Sorrento in a wide-tyred disability chair.

That something so simple could mean so much speaks volumes about the significance of the chairs and how beneficial it would be to have them readily available.

However, red tape – often involving Mornington Peninsula Shire Council – is restricting the chairs’ availability because the insurance and public liability concerns.

Four of the chairs sit under the Sorrento Sea Baths with baths’ owners James and Helene Gibson ready and willing to put them on the sand to give potential users easy access to the sea.

Sorrento Men’s Shed co-ordinator Terry Phippin said it was a “pleasure” over the summer break to be able to lend a chair to Sorrento visitors John and Judy O’Donnell and their son Antony, 38.

“This amazing family do all they can to make life normal for Antony,” Mr Phippen said.

“The guy was so excited at being able to get to the water’s edge and his mum and dad were just as happy to find this option for him.

“It made me realise just why we were looking at having these chairs at Sorrento.”

Mr Phippen said an excited Antony had been promised another trip in the chair: “His eyes told me what he was thinking, and I’m expecting a call soon to find him decked out in his bathers.”

Blairgowrie’s Pauline Downes, who has a severely disabled son, said she and friend Kate Smith said there was a need for everyone to be able to access beaches at the southern end of the peninsula – whether wheelchair bound, frail elderly or adults and children with debilitating health issues.

“Most people live or holiday down here because they love the beach and sea,” she said.

Ms Downes said it had been an “ongoing battle to have the mobility chairs available for disabled users”.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 25 February 2020


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