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Sebastian VanVeenendaal Royal Rehab's Beach Access Interview

Sebastian VanVeenendaal Royal Rehab's Beach Access Interview

What could be more Australian than a day at the beach? For many people with disabilities, that experience has been taken away. Accessing the beach, particularly for someone in a wheelchair, can be near impossible without the proper equipment and assistance. Data shows only one in five (24%) people with a disability participate in sport or recreation activity compared to 75% of people in good health.

New South Wales falls below the national average and is ranked second lowest for percentage of people with a disability who participate in sport and recreation2. Leading NSW rehabilitation and disability support organisation Royal Rehab has announced its innovative Beach Access program will be returning with dates for the summer months to help break down the barriers to participation.

The program, now in its second year, provides free clinics for people with spine and brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or other disability to help them learn ways to access and gain confidence, independence and safety when visiting the beach and ocean.

Royal Rehab's Beach Access program will be hosted this summer from Collaroy Beach on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Funding from Surf Life Saving NSW, the Department of Family and Community Service (FACS) and private donors allowed the organisation to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and train 25 Warringah lifeguards in disability safety as part of the initiative.

Participants will learn how to enter the ocean safely, what the best equipment to use is and how to be water safe. They will also receive tips from people living with disability who regularly access the beach. The program also helps increase awareness and understanding of disability, social inclusion and beach access in the local community.

Royal Rehab Recreation Therapy Leader Sebastian VanVeenendaal said he was thrilled to be able to offer the program again this year.

'Taking part in sport and recreation activity is a great way to feel confident, independent and healthy. Normal summer activities like visiting the beach can often be difficult and sometimes hazardous for people with a disability. We are helping give them and their carers the opportunity, confidence and skills to return to enjoying time at the beach."

'Participating in the Beach Access program is also a great way for people with disabilities to meet and socialise with others who have similar interests and experiences in a relaxed and fun environment. We are looking forward to seeing both old and new faces. The previous participants enjoy sharing their new skills and helping others," said Mr VanVeenendaal.

The Beach Access program is part of Royal Rehab's broader range of Recreation Therapy services aimed at helping people with disabilities discover community based sport, recreation and leisure opportunities tailored to their abilities. These entry level courses include a fully-inclusive tennis program accredited by Tennis Australia, adaptive yoga, indoor rock climbing, cycling and golf offerings.

Royal Rehab's Beach Access program is funded by generous community-based fundraising, individual and corporate donations. This community support is critical to Royal Rehab in delivering world-class lifestyle support, rehabilitation, education and research programs.

People are encouraged to support Royal Rehab's Christmas Appeal during this season of giving by visiting royalrehab.com.au or calling 02 9808 9602.


Interview with Sebastian VanVeenendaal, Royal Rehab Recreation Therapy Leader

Question: What is Royal Rehab's Beach Access program?

Sebastian VanVeenendaal: Royal Rehab's Beach Access program is an innovative initiative that will be hosted this summer from Collaroy Beach on Sydney's Northern Beaches helping people with disabilities in NSW learn how to access the Beach safely.

The program, now in its second year, provides free clinics for people with spine and brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or other disability to help them learn ways to access and gain confidence, independence and safety when visiting the beach and ocean.

Participants will learn how to enter the ocean safely, what the best equipment to use is and how to be water safe. They will also receive tips from people living with disability who regularly access the beach.


Question: Who are is the Royal Rehab's Beach Access program for?

Sebastian VanVeenendaal: The program is aimed at people with spine and brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or other disability of any age or ability who would like to learn how to access the beach and water safely again.


Question: What is involved in the clients offered as part of the Royal Rehab's Beach Access program?

Sebastian VanVeenendaal: Participating in the Beach Access program is also a great way for people with disabilities to meet and socialise with others who have similar interests and experiences in a relaxed and fun environment. Throughout the day, clients are provided the opportunity to access the beach and trial a range of adaptive equipment and specialised wheelchairs. We've also got beach access matting which allowed clients to access the beach using their own wheelchair. Depending on the conditions on the day, clients are given the opportunity to go into the ocean and surf, swim, snorkel, float (whatever it is that they would like to do). We aim to train independence in all clients who attend, so that they can continue access the beach regularly without the need to wait for a specific event again.

Previous participants act as peer support for others and enjoy sharing their skills and learnings. Each session is overseen by experienced Recreation Therapists and Recreation Therapy Assistants in addition to a number of volunteers to provide support and assistance to clients as needed.


Question: What do you hope to achieve through the Royal Rehab's Beach Access program?

Sebastian VanVeenendaal: During the summer, nothing seems more Aussie than a day at the beach. But sadly, for many people with disabilities, that experience has been taken away. Accessing the beach, particularly for someone in a wheelchair, can be near impossible without the proper equipment and assistance.

Research shows only one in five (24%) people with a disability participate in sport or recreation activity compared to 75% of people in good health.

Royal Rehab's Beach Access Program helps break down some of the barrier to participation in water activities while also helping increase awareness and understanding of disability, social inclusion and beach access in the local community.


Question: Can you tell us the dates and locations for the Royal Rehab's Beach Access program?

Sebastian VanVeenendaal: The program will be hosted this summer from Collaroy Beach on Sydney's Northern Beaches

Beach Access Dates for 2016-2017
Wednesday 23rd November
Saturday 17th December
Wednesday 18th January
Wednesday 15th February
Saturday 4th March


Question: Why is this program so important to you?

Sebastian VanVeenendaal: I grew up at the beach and family holidays were always at the beach, so it's always held a significant role in my life. I'm passionate about supporting people of all abilities to be able to have the same opportunities as everyone else – no matter what adaptations and support are required.


Question: What's involved in your role as a -Royal Rehab Recreation Therapy Leader'?

Sebastian VanVeenendaal: I've actually got roles here at Royal Rehab, one is the Professional Leader of Recreation Therapy, and the other is the Manager of Return2Sport. All allied health disciplines (Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy ect) have a Professional Leader who's main role is to represent their discipline professionally at Royal Rehab and externally including facilitating practice development, evidence based practice, research and employee professional development. I look after a fantastic team of therapists across both our rehabilitation units (Spinal Injury, Brain Injury and Private Unit) and disability service. My role as the manager of Return2Sport involves growing and developing new initiatives (such as this beach access program) to provide improved opportunities for people with a disability to be involved with sport, recreation and leisure within their communities. Some of the programs I am most proud of developing are our annual Snowsports Camp held in the NSW Skifields and our adaptive Cycle Hubs, which provide safe, supported traffic free environments for people with a disability to either return to, or learn to cycle.


Question: What's next for Royal Rehab?

Sebastian VanVeenendaal: The Beach Access program is part of Royal Rehab's broader range of Recreation Therapy services aimed at helping people with disabilities discover community based sport, recreation and leisure opportunities tailored to their abilities.

These entry level courses include a fully-inclusive tennis program accredited by Tennis Australia, adaptive yoga, indoor rock climbing, cycling, gardening and golf offerings.

Royal Rehab employs an innovative model of rehabilitation which extends recovery beyond the traditional clinical environment and integrates it with rehabilitation activities in everyday life.

Royal Rehab's original programs help people with disability build autonomy and encourage pathways to active participation in their communities. Royal Rehab will continue to build on its innovative program offerings and research to help bring cutting edge rehabilitation to people living in NSW.


Question: How can Australia support Royal Rehab's Christmas Appeal?

Sebastian VanVeenendaal: Royal Rehab's Beach Access program is funded by generous community-based fundraising, individual and corporate donations. This community support is critical to Royal Rehab in delivering world-class lifestyle support, rehabilitation, education and research programs.

People are encouraged to support Royal Rehab's Christmas Appeal with a tax deductible donation during this season of giving. Donations can be made by visiting royalrehab.com.au or calling 02 9808 9602.


Interview by Brooke Hunter



 



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