New centre, more access
THE first fully accessible snow line accommodation was officially opened at Howmans Gap last Friday.
The new $3.7 million state-ofthe-art facility will allow more people with disabilities to experience the snow and participate in on-snow activities at Falls Creek, just a few kilometres up the road.
Owned and largely funded by the Victorian government, the Alpine Accessible Accommodation Centre will be managed by YMCA Victoria on behalf of Disabled Wintersports Australia.
Previous to the development Howmans Gap provided limited special needs facilities but DWA national program manager Andrew Lee said the new year-round accommodation will create a fantastic op- portunity for many Australians who would otherwise be unable to access the snow.
The national membership base for DWA continues to grow and is 1400 people this year with more and more disabled skiers taking to the slopes.
“We now have a dedicated facility above the snow line which means we can now offer the same opportunity to people with disabilities that the average person gets to have,” Mr Lee said.
“The snow in general is something that gives people a sense of freedom so it’s great that we can now give more people the chance to experience the snow and the joys that come with it.”
Each of the centre’s 36 rooms were built so that the room design can be changed but still maintain accessibility.
The kitchen has been fitted so it’s all wheelchair accessible and will eventually be set up for limited selfcatering.
The bathrooms are designed for people with very limited mobility, up to full quadriplegia, with lifting hoists, a changing table and fully accessible shower.
The centre includes additional heating and insulation to assist visitors who have difficulty regulating their body temperature.
Lights have also been wired to all come on softly, for people who have vision impairments or sensitivity to light.
Mr Lee said that the purpose-built facility had taken absolutely everything into account.
“Every single element of the facility is designed to make it easier for our clients and to provide them with a memorable snow experience,” he said.
DWA hopes to raise $100,000 to install a lift at the centre, so that people in wheelchairs do not have to leave the building and go down a ramp to access a fitting room downstairs.
Along with providing greater opportunities for people with a disability, the centre will also become a high-performance training facility for Australia’s Winter Paralympic Games athletes.
Winter Paralympian co-captains and DWA ambassadors Joany Badenhorst and Mitch Gourley spoke at the centre’s launch.
The centre was officially opened by Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism Danielle Green, who is trained as a DWA guide, while MP Damian Drum was also in attendance.