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November 16, 2007

Another inaccessible public facility in HRM

Cole Harbour Place is the subject of a well documented complaint by Kevin Murphy, a founder of the James McGregor Stewart Society. His eloquent letter to Councillor Hendsbee outlines the thoughtless design that makes the swimming pool off limits for folks with mobility challenges. You can lend your support by emailing hendsbd@halifax.ca
Here is how Kevin desribes the situation:

As a person with a physical disability, I am unable to access the swimming pool (or any of the bodies of water in the facility), for either my own personal use, or to participate in any aquatic activities with my family.

I did speak directly with Management there approx 1.5 yrs ago, with no satisfactory response. The response I got, was that the main pool was wheelchair accessible because of the higher ledge surrounding the pool (which supposedly made it easier to transfer into). I am doubtful if CHP Management has ever attempted to get a mobility impaired 200 lb man out of its pool, and over its “barrier free” pool ledge (which actually makes it more difficult, because you have to go up even further than the pool deck to get out). This was a poor, ill conceived (albeit maybe well intended) attempt at barrier free access by someone who was not an actual user.

What needs to be in place is a proper “track mounted ceiling lift”, with a portable power unit which would enable barrier free access to all bodies of water at the facility (hot tub, kiddies pool, etc). Each body of water would have its own piece of access track to accommodate the mobile power unit (which contains the actual winch).

As mentioned, I did consult directly with CHP Management with my request and subsequent recommendation, even hooking them up with equipment info and a local supplier, hoping that they could carry the ball from there. But here we are almost 2 years later, and still no action. I offered to assist with attracting grant funds from various Foundations who serve the disability population in an attempt to avert the “budget issue” reply...............and no uptake. I even hooked them up with the management at the Acadia University pool in Wolfville which has so many seniors/persons with mobility disabilities swimming, that they recently installed a SECOND pool lift (on the same pool) to accommodate the huge demand of this population using their wonderful facility, in hopes of averting the “how do we manage it” question............no uptake.

See http://www.guldmann.net/Default.aspx?ID=2839&GroupID=GROUP12 for an example of the widely used equipment which would solve the issue.

This equipment would give unrestricted access to any body of water at the facility, giving clients/consumers/customers/taxpayers TRUE freedom of choice as to what aquatic activities they want to participate in.

Also required is a dedicated change/prep room with a proper change table/bed, and a piece of the ceiling track (stands to reason if someone needs a lift to access the pool that further accommodation would be required in this regard).

Although I am writing as a result of personal circumstance/need, I am hoping to instigate positive change for all involved, (inc those seniors and people with disabilities who are content with “status quo”). Surely HRM and Cole Harbour Place Management are privy to the demographics of the populations (inc seniors and people with disabilities) they are attempting to serve by offering equal access to all its programs and facilities? The population of seniors and people with mobility disabilities would greatly benefit from the freedom to choose this facility as part of their healthy living choices.

In another (but related) matter, it was somewhat embarrassing for me as an HRM taxpayer to not even be able to access the CHP Management office, due to the office doorway being to narrow to accommodate the width of my wheelchair. FYI, my wheelchair is 26” wide. The HRM building code requires that all doorways be a minimum of 36” wide. Much to the embarrassment also of the CHP Management who had invited me to their office to discuss the issue of BF access to the pool, we had to hold our meeting in the janitors office which had a doorway which could barely accommodate the width of my wheelchair. I am sure this building was constructed post 1980ish, when the current Barrier Free section of the NS Building Code was enacted. Is this a case of HRM not following its own building code?

I am reminded of the recent NS Supreme Court lawsuit involving the HRM Building Inspectors office VS. NSLC for not constructed it management offices in each new store to meet the barrier free access code. Unbelievably, part of the NSLC Management defence was that no one with a disability has ever applied for a management job!! Needless to say, the NSLC lost this case, and was ordered to retrofit all its store management office to meet the BF code, and to adhere to the BF code in all aspects of future construction.

It continues to baffle me why so much time, energy, and resources are expended by various levels of government (and their agencies) not accommodating persons with disabilities, and the related demographic populations they are supposed to be serving.

My offers of assistance still stand. Looking forward to your prompt reply.


Kevin S. Murphy


Wheels said...

Clearly this is a serious problem. It is an equity issue because one cannot access parts of a public facility and a human rights issue because complaints were not taken seriously, the assumption doubtless being something like the circular reasoning of the NSLC - no disabled access because no disabled people use the public facility.

As if these indignities weren't enough, civic officials must be ignorant of the special health benefits of aquatic exercise for disabled people. There is a long list of benefits including improvement in:

respiratory capacity
motor control
cardiac output
oxygen delivery
pain management
perceptual stimulation
muscle reeducation
range of motion
and so on

Doesn't it seem strange that a medical system that is trying emphasize healthy lifestyles as a way to reduce expenses is thwarted by a shortsighted management of a public facility? My doctor is always after me to get the benefits of aquatic exercise. To have HRM working at cross purpose to medical recommendations is like a chapter from Alice in Wonderland.

Please rely on me for any support I can give.

Gus Reed

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