Eliminating Barriers at Today's Aquatic Facilities
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Public pools and spas bring people of all ages and abilities together and, therefore, are designed to be an inclusive space. Swimming, exercise, therapy, relaxation, and water play are all activities that can take place in a pool and/or spa and, thanks to innovative design features and access equipment, people of all abilities are able to participate in these activities in the same body of water.
To make an aquatic facility more accessible, it starts during the design phase. In fact, many provinces and states have made significant changes to building codes when it comes to addressing ease of access to public facilities. For instance, amendments to building codes in Ontario require barrier-free access to, and around, all public pools and some spas. That said, there are several ways to design/build or renovate an aquatic facility to make it more accessible.
Ramps are one of the most common and effective ways to make a pool more accessible. Pool ramps provide individuals in wheelchairs a safe way to enter/exit the pool while remaining seated. They also provide a gradual entry point equipped with railing support for patrons who may have other mobility constraints. Bathers of all ages and abilities can use these ramps as a method of ingress/egress from the pool.
Beach entry, also known as zero entry, is an increasingly popular pool design, especially when it comes to accessibility and overall esthetics. A beach entry provides a gradual slope from the deck into the pool, eliminating the need for steps and/or ladders. The design is similar to a ramp, but spans the entire width of the pool.
This design accommodates a wide range of patrons of all ages and abilities. Beach entries are typically integrated into leisure/lap pool combinations and provide a popular access point for the entire family.
This pool design comprises a wall or curb along an accessible route to enable a bather to leave a mobility device and transfer onto the wall and then in the pool or spa. Transfer walls must have at least one grab bar; however in most cases there are two. This type of accessibility feature is common in spas.
Ballet railings are installed along the walls of a pool and, in some cases, in the interior, to provide a hand grip for bathers to hold onto - similar to the railings used by ballet dancers. These railings provide additional support and security for bathers with mobility constraints; however, they are also commonly used for fitness and aerobics. In certain applications, ballet rails can be removed for storage when not in use.
Movable floors give aquatic facilities the ultimate versatility when it comes to accessibility. In fact, a number of public pools in Europe are equipped with these systems, while in North America movable floors are gaining similar traction and are now being incorporated into many aquatic facility designs.
Movable floors can be installed in new construction or retrofitted into existing facilities giving them the ability to offer a range of programming that could not be provided to patrons in the past. While not a lifting device, pools equipped with a movable floor can be set to multiple depths to accommodate the preferences and/or abilities of different patrons. Further, moving floors can also be built with a sloping functionality. This allows the movable floor to become a beach entry or offer a gradual depth change within the pool.
Platform lifts provide the same benefits and ease of entry as a ramp, but in a fraction of the space. These devices, which are typically a small movable floor, allow a patron to remain in their wheelchair or mobility device when entering the pool.
Capable of stopping at one or more depths within the pool, platform lifts have a greater weight capacity than an anchored or portable lift and are powered by either battery or water.
Similar to a ramp or beach entry, these are the only lifts that give the platform autonomy to enter the pool without assistance. These lifts are designed and built as part of the pool and are typically incorporated in the initial plans. Platform lifts are innovative in design and are increasing in popularity compared to older access equipment typically found in most aquatic facilities.
Many people are familiar with splash pads, as they are often found at most public playgrounds and, in some cases, are also part of many aquatic facility designs. These areas have grown in popularity because of their zero-depth water play design. Not only are they safe, but they are universally accessible. Many aquatic facilities will incorporate either an indoor or outdoor splash pad or water play area into the plans.
Along with the barrier-free design of most splash pads, water play manufacturers are also creating a range of interactive features that are available in various sizes to accommodate patrons of all abilities.
Further, all ground space is flush with the concrete, which allows mobility devices to move over and around a splash pad without any difficulty.
Access lifts provide an additional means of entry/exit with the ability to transfer a patron from the pool deck directly into the water without using a ramp or stairs. These lifts do not have to be incorporated into the design or construction of the pool, as they can be easily installed after the pool has been built.
There are many different manufacturers and models available, which makes it possible to use these types of pool lifts in most aquatic facilities whether new or existing.
Anchored access lifts are installed into supports mounted around the pool perimeter. These lifts can be easily removed and stored if they are not being used. Most anchored pool access lifts are battery-powered and charged by simply plugging the unit into the wall.
Portable access lifts are similar to anchored lifts; however, they are on wheels and can be used anywhere around the pool as they are not limited by anchor locations in the pool deck. Although portable lifts can be used anywhere, they typically have a lower weight capacity.
These lifts are installed in the ceiling of an aquatic facility and are typically used when deck space is limited. They also have a larger lifting capacity than a portable or anchored lift. Powered by a battery-operated motor, a ceiling lift can transport patrons-once they are suspended-lateralling along a track system. They are also well-suited for intensive use, e.g. providing access to the pool for a large number of patrons that use wheelchairs. Further, ceiling lifts have a larger lifting capacity than a standard portable or anchored deck lift and are great for pools that have narrow decks which do not permit the installation of an access system.
Summer may officially be over, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop swimming! In fact, swimming throughout the year can help you strengthen your swimming skills in preparation for summer water activities! No need to worry about weather conditions interfering with your aquatic programs in the fall or winter, indoor pools are open rain or shine…or snow! Here's a list of some of our favourite awesome indoor pools.
FALLSVIEW INDOOR WATERPARK
Don’t let the cold weather get you down! Visit the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark in Niagara Falls and keep your family entertained for hours this winter! This 3 acre indoor waterpark is directly connected to the Sheraton on the Falls Hotel and features 16 water slides standing up to 6 stories high, a large wave pool, Jacuzzis, a tiny tots splash area and more! Children will have a blast splashing in the Beach House featuring a Tipping Bucket that dumps 1,000 gallons of water! The Tiny Tots splash park includes water streams, mushroom water pods, tot slides and much more. This water park is perfect for swimmers of all ages!
MIDCO AQUATIC CENTER
The MIDCO Aquatic Center is a 61,000 square foot recreational center featuring competition, recreation, and therapy pools as well as a spray park. The 50M competition pool hosts ten lanes and a competition diving area with four platforms. The therapy pool is 1,500 square foot and wheelchair accessible. The recreation pool is a multi-use pool that accommodates a variety of programming opportunities and includes a lazy river, water slide, recreation area, and splash area with play structure. With zero depth beach entry, and an ADA lift, the MIDCO Aquatic Center was designed and built to be fully accessible.
REGENT PARK AQUATIC CENTRE
This indoor aquatic facility, located in the heart of Regent Park in Toronto, Ontario features a lap pool, leisure pool, warm water pool, Tarzan rope, diving board and water slide! The first in Canada, the Regent Park has adopted the use of a universal change room. This was a choice made to establish equality, create a fully accessible experience for all patrons and enhance safety at the facility. With programs created to accommodate all ages (from preschoolers to seniors), the Regent Park Aquatic Centre is a great place for the community to spend time this winter!
DULLES SOUTH RECREATION & COMMUNITY CENTRE
This aquatic facility, comprised of a 50M lap pool and a leisure pool, offers features for swimmers of all ages. Patrons of the Dulles South Recreation & Community Center have use of diving stands, a lazy river, a 135-foot Aqua Blue water slide with an adjoining plunge pool, a hydrotherapy whirl pool, and a separate spa. Zero depth beach entry leads swimmers into the shallow area of the leisure pool which features an exciting Vortex play structure. Open all year long, this awesome indoor aquatic centre is the place to be this winter!
GUILDFORD RECREATION CENTRE
The impressive Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey, British Columbia includes an exciting aquatic centre complete with modern features guaranteed to improve the experience of all swimmers! The state-of-the-art facility features an 8-lane, 50M FINA standard competition pool, a leisure pool complete with a lazy river, spray features and a toddler area, a family hot tub, and a water slide! This aquatic centre has the ability to offer a variety of programming. From aquacise classes to lifeguard courses and diving practices, The Guildford Recreation Centre is open to the public year round!
MITCHELL INDOOR AQUATIC CENTRE
Perfect for both recreation and competitive uses, the Mitchell Indoor Aquatic Center features a competition pool and a leisure pool. To be suitable for competitive swimming events, the competition pool is complete with diving boards, starting blocks, a basketball hoop, accessibility lift and a Colorado Timing System. The leisure pool contains warm-up lanes, two water slides, a vortex therapy pool, a fun zip line, play structures and spray features. The orange water slide plunge zone drops swimmers into the pool at the end of the water slide. Although it's the shorter of the two water slides, the drop adds some suspense before splashing into the water. The blue water slide is the longer of the two and its twists and turns take riders on an exciting ride outside the building.
MOUNT PEARL SUMMIT CENTRE
The Mount Pearl Summit Centre includes aquatic areas and features suitable for all ages and purposes. The facility features a lap pool, fitness pool, whirl pool, water slide and an indoor splash pad with safety foam flooring. The main pool contains a touch sensor timing system for competitive swimming uses and underwater speakers to enhance the synchronize swimming experience! With all of these high-tech amenities, this indoor aquatic centre is guaranteed to provide entertainment for families throughout the whole year!
DR. ROBERT W. BROWNE AQUATIC CENTRE
This state of the art aquatic centre located in Coldwater, Michigan includes an 8 lane competition pool and a separate warm water therapy pool with zero depth beach entry. There is no limit to the types of aquatic programming available at this community centre. The diving boards and starting blocks are perfect for those looking to practice their swimming techniques, competitions and lap swimming. The Badu jets, therapy railings, hydrotherapy bench and pool lift were included to offer rehabilitation and senior aquatic programs. Children will have a blast using the inflatable log, climbing wall, basketball nets and volleyball nets during a leisure swim! The Dr. Robert W. Browne Aquatic Centre really does have something to offer swimmers of all ages this winter!
CRESTON & DISTRICT COMMUNITY COMPLEX
The exciting indoor aquatic facility at the Creston & District Community Complex, located in Creston, British Columbia is a great place to go for a swim this winter! This 5-year old facility offers many modern and interactive amenities within the aquatic centre including a 5-lane, 25M lap pool with a diving stand, a 2,500 square foot leisure pool complete with a lazy river, bubble bench and a tot play area, and a 165 square foot swirl pool. The exciting spray features will keep children occupied for hours! Whether you are looking to get in a good lap swim, practice your swimming strokes, or just a relaxing leisure swim, this aquatic centre is the place to spend the winter and with a variety of features it’s perfect for the entire family.
RICHARDSON RECREATION & WELLNESS CENTRE
The Richardson Recreation and Wellness Centre in Swan Valley, Manitoba opened to the community in 2014. This awesome indoor aquatic centre combines features for recreation and leisure activities along with the necessary equipment for competition and lap swimming. For families looking to spend a Saturday afternoon at the pool, the facility offers a large leisure pool with a zero depth beach entrance, a swirl pool, water slide, lazy river, tot pool and various spray features. For the expert swimmers looking to continue to improve their swimming techniques, or for those in search of an alternative form of exercise throughout the winter this aquatic centre offers a 4-lane competition pool with starting blocks!
Now that we're half way through the first week of June, we can (finally) say goodbye to cold, wet weather! With temperatures on the rise, more of us are starting to leave our homes and look for ways to soak up the sun. One of the best and most popular ways to spend the summer is poolside. Swimming is the perfect way to cool off for many reasons. It's convenient and inexpensive and with most communities offering more than one public pool at a low cost per use, families of all income levels and in all areas of the community can gather at a local pool for some fun in the sun. Most swimming pools today, offer interactive fun in the form of spray features, water slides, diving boards and even climbing walls! These fun features are great additions that keep kids and adults alike busy, having a blast and refreshed all at the same time! Here is a list of 10 awesome outdoor pools to visit this summer.
FAIR GROUNDS AQUATIC PARK (STRATHROY, ONTARIO)
The Fair Grounds Aquatic Park in Strathroy, Ontario is the perfect place to spend a hot summer day with the family! This outdoor facility boasts exciting features for swimmers of all ages. The 6-lane lap pool is perfect for those looking to get some exercise or practice their swimming technique. The leisure pool, featuring a variety of spray features, is perfect for young children to splash around with their parents. For those looking to take it easy, the lazy river and hydrotherapy bench provide the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax, and cool off, all at the same time! Finally, the exciting 22 ft water slide will have you returning in no time!
HORACE MANN PARK (RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA)
The brand new Horace Mann Park in Rapid City, South Dakota, opened to the public in 2015, following a complete re-build. This exciting waterpark features an outdoor lap pool, complete with diving boards, a recreation pool, water slides, and a Vortex play structure that will have kids splashing the day away! Gather your family and head to the Horace Mann Park for some fun in the sun!
NELSON POOL (BURLINGTON, ONTARIO)
Following a complete renovation, the brand new Nelson Pool opened to the public in 2017. The newly renovated pool is complete with an eight-lane, 50M pool with an adjoining beach-entry leisure pool and an adjacent splash pad. The climbing wall and diving boards are extra perks, enhancing the overall experience at the pool. Ground sprays projecting water upwards and outwards, a giant tipping bucket and small animal spray features are only a few of the exciting spray features you can find at the new splash pad.
SCHULENBURG POOL (WAUSAU, WISCONSIN)
Throughout the summer season the Schulenburg Pool is a popular gathering spot for the local Wausau community. With designated lap and leisure areas, two water slides and a vibrant play structure, there's something fun for the whole family. All areas of the swimming pool are fully accesible, allowing swimmers of all ages and physical abilities the opportunity to enjoy this community amenity. Shade structures are located around the permieter of the swimming pool, perfect for parents or swimmers looking to lounge in the shade.
TOMLINSON AQUA PARK (KINGSTON, ONTARIO)
Located in Kingston, Ontario, the Tomlinson Aqua Park boasts a 25M lap pool complete with diving boards along with a leisure pool featuring fun spray features! When you visit this water park you will also find an exciting, 10M water slide, a lazy river, toddler pool, and zero-depth beach entry. There is no better way to beat the heat this summer than a day spent at the Tomlinson Aqua Park!
TIOGA MUNICIPAL POOL (TIOGA, NORTH DAKOTA)
Families of Tioga, North Dakota love spending their summers at the Tioga Municipal Pool! Renovated in 2015, this family-friendly swimming pool features a frog slide, water umbrella and tumble buckets - perfect for young swimmers! The the water slide, diving board and lap/leisure pool are a great space for older children and adults to refresh in the summer heat.
LAKESHORE SWIMMING POOL ASSOCIATION (KINGSTON, ONTARIO)
The Lakeshore Swimming Pool in Kingston, Ontario officially opened to the public in the summer of 2015! After mechanical room and pool tank renovations, the facility was completely transformed. When visiting this facility, you will find a refreshing lap/leisure pool complete with diving boards and a small water slide! The brand new concrete deck is the perfect place to soak up the sun. Spend this summer poolside at the Lakeshore Swimming Pool Association!
ROOSEVELT PARK (RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA)
The outdoor aquatic facility at Roosevelt Park in Rapid City, South Dakota, includes a 10-lane, 50M outdoor pool with a movable bulkhead. When the bulkhead is in the middle park position, the pool transforms into a 20-lane pool, making this facility perfect for those looking to touch up on their swimming technique, practice for competitions, or even just get in a good lap swim! The facility also includes water polo courses for both men and women, and starting platforms, making this the place to be for aquatic competitions of all kinds!
CARDSTON OUTDOOR POOL (CARDSTON, ALBERTA)
The Cardston Outdoor Pool in Cardston, Alberta is the ideal cool-off spot for children, adults and families! This swimming pool features a 25M lap pool, wading pool, toddler pool, spray features, diving board and zero depth beach entry, making this facility fully accessible to the entire community. The park also includes a lazy river, bubble bench and an exciting water slide – tons of fun for children of all ages!
CANYON AQUA PARK/THE CAP (CANYON, TEXAS)
Beat the heat at The CAP in Canyon, Texas! Enjoy concessions, shade, and over 10,000 square feet of water fun! The CAP is home to a 6-lane lap pool with two diving boards and a basketball goal. In addition to the lap pool, swimmers can splash around on a giant play structure and or the exciting splash pad, relax in the lazy river or enjoy a ride on the speed slides!