Tuesday, 16 April 2024
    Sailability brings freedom to people with disabilities

    Sailability brings freedom to people with disabilities

    Jason East sits behind the steering wheel of a pontoon boat with nothing but the gentle breeze off the water and the passing sailboats to distract him, ABC News reports.

    "When you're out on the water it's like leaving your disability behind," Mr East says.

    "We're all equal on the water and there's a real freedom in that."

    Mr East, who ordinarily uses a wheelchair, manoeuvres through the calm waters of Cairns' Trinity Inlet in Far North Queensland.

    It's his second trip of the day taking a boatload of passengers with disabilities for a gentle, afternoon sail.

    Being on the water is second nature for the 46-year-old skipper after growing up on his family's yacht and working on boats in the Torres Strait.

    But that idyllic lifestyle was up-ended 14 years ago after a motor vehicle crash left him using a wheelchair.

    It took years of soul-searching and physical therapy before Mr East was ready to get back on the water.

    At 32 years of age doctors labelled Mr East's injury as "incomplete", meaning the spinal cord was not severed completely, but he did lose all movement from the neck down.

    He discovered Sailability, an Australia-wide club that takes people with a disability sailing, and despite being "quite scared" initially it reignited his passion for the water.

    "I'd been a commercial crayfish diver, and then after the accident I couldn't swim," he says.

    "But once I started coming down to the club I fell back in love with the water all over again, and it's actually strengthened a lot of my muscle groups and given me more mobility."


    Sailability brings smiles and a sense of freedom on the water for people with disabilities (ABC News)


    The club takes people of all disabilities out on the water, giving them the chance to enjoy boating.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)