Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Essential Framework for Adaptive Aquatics

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Essential Framework for Adaptive Aquatics

Article excerpt

Adaptive Aquatics consists of architectural and programmatic modifications to provide services for individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines what these modifications are (www ada.gov/t2hlt95.htm). It's up to recreation professionals to implement them in each facility.

ADA Architectural Standards

Architectural specifications are outlined in the ADA to remove barriers that limit physical access to all areas of your facility. Some of these specifications include accessible entrances to the building, handrailing height, door width, pool entrances and lifts. For the complete list, visit www. ADA.gov. Accessible pool features must be maintained in operable, working condition so people with disabilities have access to the pool whenever the pool is open to the public. For example, a portable pool lift may be stored when the pool is closed, but it must be at poolside and fully operational during all open pool hours.

Pool Temperatures

The temperature of the pool can be a factor in the success of your adaptive lessons. In most cases, the ideal pool temperature for teaching people with disabilities is 89 degrees. This temperature helps with circulation, attention spans and comfort. It may be difficult to keep recreation pools at 89 degrees, so even keeping it at 86 degrees can still be beneficial. However, there are a few exceptions; for example, for people who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), heat can exacerbate their symptoms. An ideal pool temperature for people suffering with MS is 78-83 degrees.

Program Modifications

Title II of the ADA details says, "State and local governments may not refuse to allow a person with a disability to participate in a service, program, or activity simply because the person has a disability." Therefore, it is our job to provide modifications to these patrons so they can enjoy our services and activities in the same way as every other community member. Always try to find a modification. Remember, equivalent isn't everybody getting the same thing: equivalent is everybody getting what they need to be successful.

Reasonable modifications could include:

* Allowing a caregiver in for free

* Allowing an individual to come in during non-open-swim time if they have sensory sensitivities associated with loud noises, play features or crowds

* Allowing a family member or caregiver to assist during a lesson

* Allowing a participant to join a younger age group that is more at his or her functional level

* Allowing a participant to use non-coast guard-approved floatation devices to increase functional ability in the pool

* Providing training to staff on how to assist swimmers with special needs

Modifications don't necessarily have to cost money. Simple modifications can be immensely beneficial.

The ADA also says, "State and local governments must provide programs and services in an integrated setting, unless separate or different measures are necessary to ensure equal opportunity." What does this mean for adaptive aquatics? It means that we need to provide inclusive services as well as special recreation.

Inclusion

Inclusion is just as it sounds: including people with disabilities in mainstream programs with their peers. This may require you to add a paid staff member or an interpreter in the lesson to ensure success for the participant. Remember, Title II of ADA Law says providers "may not place special charges on individuals with disabilities to cover the costs of measures necessary to ensure nondiscriminatory treatment. …

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