Reel deal for those in wheel­chairs

Central Leader - - NEWS - By CATHER­INE HEALY

Haul­ing your din­ner out of the sea is one of those clas­sic Kiwi ex­pe­ri­ences many of us take for granted.

But not ev­ery­one in the City of Sails has ac­cess to a boat, and if you get about in a wheel­chair, get­ting on a fish­ing char­ter is not easy.

Sure, you could get a mate to lift you over the side, but will there be room for your wheel­chair to move about on board?

And have you seen the size of the toi­let on your av­er­age fish­ing boat? There’s no room for a chair in there.

How­ever there is one or­gan­i­sa­tion that gives Kiwi wheel­chair users the chance to get out on the water and fish for their sup­per.

Reels on Wheels has been around since 2008. Last sum­mer 150 wheel­chair users and their car­ers took a trip out on the Sea­sprite II with skip­per Sean Dickie.

He’s built an ac­ces­si­ble toi­let and has cut a piece out of the stern to al­low room for a wheel­chair ramp. He’s also added a canopy with side cur­tains as ex­tra pro­tec­tion from the weather.

As one par­tic­i­pant puts it: ‘‘It would be nice if this was a re­flec­tion of so­ci­ety in gen­eral, the ef­fort that’s been made to give us ac­cess.’’

Mary Saun­ders took her first Reels on Wheels trip this year. ‘‘It means a lot to me. ‘‘I’m in a home, in a wheel­chair, and you don’t get to go any­where.

‘‘I like this crowd, they’re not all old peo­ple and we all get along.’’

David Swaffield is the trust man­ager and has been in­volved since its in­cep­tion. He says the trust sur­vives on the wil- ling­ness of like-minded vol­un­teers. By ap­ply­ing for var­i­ous grants and com­mu­nity fund­ing all costs are met and so the par­tic­i­pants don’t pay a cent for their day out.

‘‘The ad­van­tage we have is it’s easy to ex­plain and you can see the re­sults. It’s hard for some char­i­ties to show what they achieve.’’

Leti­tia Hayter is a care­giver who has been on the Sea­sprite three times now with the woman she cares for, Maia Amai. ‘‘It means a huge amount to them,’’ Ms Hayter says.

‘‘The crew really look af­ter th­ese guys. You can’t pay for that kind of courtesy and love.’’

Mr Swaffield points out that the trip is also valu­able time-out for care­givers.

In some cases the ‘‘chair an­gler’’ will come with a friend, giv­ing their pri­mary care­giver a pre­cious day off.

More than 100 peo­ple are al­ready reg­is­tered on the Reels on Wheels data­base but the char­ity would like to ex­pand its reach.

Fresh catch: Steven Dart wraps up some fish to take home af­ter his Reels on Wheels trip.

Easy ac­cess, right: Sea­sprite II has been mod­i­fied to al­low for a wheel­chair ramp and has an ac­ces­si­ble toi­let. The trips de­part from Pier Z at Westhaven.

Keen sports­man: Robert Berger is a Reels on Wheels reg­u­lar and man­ager of the Parafed Auck­land Shoot­ing club.

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