Lack of ramp in new pool criticised by disabled

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 26/01/2013
Webber
BEN STRANG/Fairfax NZ
Kapiti Disability Reference Group chairman Jim Webber says people with disabilities will not be able to use the pool.

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The main pool in the $21.1 million aquatic centre in Paraparaumu is being built without a ramp for disabled swimmers, sparking complaints to the Human Rights Commission.

It will have steps with a handrail, and a chair hoist, but swimmers will not be able to operate the hoist themselves. Instead, they will have to get a lifeguard to do it for them.

"People should be able to do it themselves," Kapiti Disability Reference Group chairman Jim Webber said. "Quite a few people, including myself, will not be able to use the pool independently and do not want to have to seek help to use the facility."

He said the Kapiti Coast had a high proportion of elderly residents, many of whom had some form of impaired mobility. The ageing Raumati pool, which will be replaced by the new centre, has ramp access.

Mr Webber's group had pointed out that unaided access to the water was required by the Building Code.

However, the Kapiti Coast District Council - which is putting $16.8m towards the centre - said it was not possible to have a ramp as well as a moveable floor, which was needed to ensure a wide range of activities and sports could be conducted in the main pool.

Councillor Diane Ammundsen said there would be ramp access in the learners' pool, which was shallower and warmer, and which "we expect most disabled swimmers will use".

The steps in the main pool could adjust to its variable depth, and could easily be removed when required, she said.

"Right from the start we have engaged with specialist disability groups and listened to what they had to say. I am confident the vast majority of disabled people who want to use the pool can do so in a supportive and dignified manner."

The design for the complex had passed an audit by Wrightson Associates, a company that checked for disabled access, she said.

It had determined there were "no significant matters of non-compliance". "The general view of experts is that it is very hard to make public swimming pools accessible to 100 per cent of disabled people. In the end we have gone for the universal principle, catering for the majority."

Contact Kay Blundell
Kapiti reporter
Email: kay.blundell@dompost.co.nz

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