Lake Keepit Soaring Club has benefited from new funding to make the facility more accessible for people with disabilities.
The funding was provided under the NSW government’s Regional Sport Facility Fund where it received $577,271.
The club has used this funding for a lift to assist disabled people into gliders, a new unisex bathroom and septic system.
Members of the club believe the importance of comfortability and accessibility may encourage more people to join the sport.
The site is one of the most well-known for cross country soaring in Australia.
It has been vital for education in the past with many international cadets joining the team.
Patricia Healy is the secretary of the Lake Keepit Soaring club and has been there for about 15 years.
“We do have a number of common pilots here and we also train people from other clubs. We have Yan who is an overseas air cadet from Hong Kong,” Patricia said.
“We have people from all over the world coming here and it doesn’t look good if you don’t have those facilities.
“We have actually had a lot of cadets from Hong Kong and actually a fair number of women over the years and I think it is just so much better to offer this when you’ve got people from overseas who want to come here.”
Yan Lau was recently a Hong Kong student who was learning at the club premises and had the benefit of the new facilities that many had previously missed out on.
“Compared to now, it was not as good,” Yan said.
Living in a building-dense city did not allow for Yan to receive the proper flying training needed.
“I could not get any experience of flying in Hong Kong. I just came here to experience and to learn how to do it,” he said.
“When you are in the sky it is just like ‘wow’ … it is so beautiful.”
People flying no longer need to drive for five minutes for a bathroom, which may seem insignificant but has deterred people from joining the sport in the past.
It was a major discouragement for women who wanted to learn how to fly but also wanting the privacy when needed.
“It sounds weird but you can pop in there and be comfortable when you land without having to rush somewhere else,” Patricia said.
“Also the fact that they are accessible toilets. I think that just means that we are now really able to offer flights to people with disabilities and personally, I had a disabled mother, so that is really important to me.”
She mentioned that it could be just one thing that discourages people to join, especially if they are unable to access a bathroom for multiple hours.
“It is a small thing like that which is the difference between someone having an experience and having a go or not.”
“There has been a lot of work done to encourage women to participate in the sport. It makes the club a better place, the culture is better with women in it.”
Purchasing a lift has also given the club more accessibility for disabled people wanting to fly.
The new lift allows disabled people enter and leave the glider much easier than before.
Andrew White is the treasurer of the soaring club and his passion for gliders extends to helping people with disabilities experience the sky.
“With the training glider … we can take people with many disabilities. A person who is paraplegic can learn to fly but they would have to have someone behind them to use the rudders,” Andrew said.
He aspires the club will one day have a glider with hand controls so there are more options to flying solo.
“We can have people who have hearing or speech impediments, no or limited movement of one arm,” he said.
The club also offers joy flights for those very limited in movement provided they can hold up their heads.
“We want people who want to learn how to fly,” he said.
Some may need a safety pilot to assist in the flying process.
“But our intention is to get them flying, to give them scope to enjoy the world above us,” he said.
Andrew spoke of how a flying can be an amazing experience for a paraplegic.
He once flew a disabled man in a glider and it was an experience he described as a privilege.
“His daughter came in and said ‘he is 20 years younger already’. He came back the next day for another flight,” he said.
He hopes to see more people make use of the new equipment and spark excitement for flying.To order photos from this page click here