A new resort in Sydney is set to change the way people with disabilities holiday forever.
Sargood on Collaroy is a resort in Sydney’s Northern Beaches which has been specifically designed for people with spinal cord injuries [SCI], that have left them needing a wheelchair.
The fully-accessible resort can be a life-changing experience for people who may feel restricted on where they can go to relax with friends and family due to their injury.
It can even act as a stepping stone for people leaving hospital post-injury, before they need to face the reality of their new life at home.
Someone who says he could have hugely benefited from a place like Sargood is Sam Bailey, who was in a car accident when he was 19, leaving him as a C6/C7 quadriplegic with only limited use of his arms and hands.
“Back when I was injured, I finished rehab and was then thrown into the big wide world and it was absolutely terrifying,” Sam tells Be, while enjoying a stay at Sargood for the first time.
“Coming here I realised how much of a difference it would have made, not only to me, but thousands of others like me. You can come here just to break the ice.”
Sam regularly travels the country with his wife Jenny speaking at schools about how he overcame his injury, and said that hotels around the world should use Sargood as a role model.
“The facility here is just incredible,” Sam tells us.
“The best thing about the room is you wouldn’t know it’s a disabled room. They have done it so well.
“We do a lot of speaking across the country and you do roll into rooms sometimes in hotels that are just so hospitalised. There is steel and bars and it looks terrible.
“This will be a role model for not only spinal units in Australia and around the world, but for other things and people with other injuries.”
The resort offers fully accessible self-contained apartments, a wide range of recreation and leisure activities tailored for people with SCI, a state-of-the-art gymnasium and specialist staff who are skilled in support and rehabilitation for people living with spinal cord injuries.
Rod MacQueen AM, former rugby coach of the Wallabies, is part of the Sargood Foundation and played a major role in getting the project off the ground.
“Every space in the building is completely accessible,” Rod tells Be. “While disabled rooms in your typical hotel are sometimes practical in terms of their layout, they’re often in a hotel where not all parts of the hotel are accessible – like stairs to the pool area, gym or restaurant – which can be very frustrating for guests in wheelchairs.
“When you add to this the fact that they’re usually tucked away in a corner somewhere with a view of the car park, they don’t always make for the most appealing option.”
Electronic-adjustable beds, height-adjustable vanities, discreetly designed ceiling hoists, as well as a selection of shower chairs to suit each guest’s needs are available in every room.
“The impressive thing about Sargood is that it includes all the accessibility features and specialised equipment without compromising on form. It still looks and feels like a high-end resort,” Rod says.
Multiple focus groups were involved in the design of the centre, and the biggest issue was people didn’t want the rooms to feel clinical.
Sam still remembers the exact moment after his accident when he realised he was no longer “6ft tall and bulletproof” and needed to accept “people would now stop and stare and I would have to ask for help”.
But since his accident he has lived an exciting life, he eventually taught himself how to ride a quad, and devised hoists so he could continue work on the farm. He’s climbed Mt Kosciuszko and learned how to fly an ultralight aircraft.
He says none of it would be possible without the support of his family, and the love of his life Jenny, who has been by his side for the past 18 years.
He hopes Sargood will give others the opportunity to see that having an injury is not the end of the road.
“The benefits it offers to not only patients but their families as well are incredible, because your family deal with an injury as well; it’s a life-changing incident,” Sam says.
“If you have a spinal cord injury out there and you want to do something amazing, check out the Sargood centre. Have a night or two here and it will change your life.”
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