Taking Disabled Swimming Pool Access to a New Level
The Equality Act (previously the Disability Discrimination Act or DDA) requires that all service providers make reasonable adjustments to ensure that people with a disability have the same access as their able-bodied counterparts.
In the case of access to swimming pools for people with mild to severe mobility impairment, this was typically achieved using a pool surround mounted hoisting mechanism to lower the bather into the water. Feedback from disabled swimmers suggests that this is quite an undignified means of access which can draw unwanted attention from other pool users; a more subtle solution was therefore required.
The Aquaterr Disabled Access Platform, designed and manufactured by F T Leisure Limited, is a hydraulically powered lifting platform which is unobtrusively incorporated into a section of the pool surround; it is designed to lower and raise bathers in and out of the water safely and discreetly under the care of an attendant. The main structure of the platform is high-grade stainless steel which is covered with high-density polyethylene incorporating various safety markings and non-slip finishes. Inside, the structure houses buoyancy units providing sufficient lift (or load) to accept the weight of a fully laden wheelchair. Remote to the platform, there is a single hydraulic cylinder which is connected to the platform structure via stainless steel cables and pulleys.
On the pool surround, there are simple controls for the operation of the platform; these are carefully positioned within 3 metres of the platform to ensure that the attendant remains in position throughout the lifting/raising procedure. The entire operation only takes 1 minute. The controls are operated by means of a pressure sensitive switch which stops when pressure is released. As a precautionary measure, the controls also include a key-switch to prevent unauthorised use.
There is no current European standard specifically written to cover the design of powered lifting platforms for use in swimming pools or other wet environments. However, the principles of lifting disabled persons on a powered platform are not fundamentally altered by the swimming pool location. The Aquaterr system was therefore generally guided by the principles outlined in BS 6440 (1999) Powered Lifting Platforms for use by Disabled Persons. In addition to this document, the safety considerations and commissioning checks detailed in BS 13451:Part11 Swimming Pool Equipment, Additional Specific Safety Requirements and Test Methods for Moveable Floors and Moveable Bulkheadswere followed.
The Aquaterr Disabled Access Platforms which were installed at Craven Pool, Skipton in 2002 were the first such platforms installed in the UK. The initial concept was developed by GLR Architects (now B3 Architects) in consultation with representatives from HSE, Sport England and the client project officers for the Craven Pool project. The systems have been highly praised by disabled users with very positive comments from operators and local authorities; they are being successfully used in a number of authority pool projects around the UK including the recently completed Jubilee2 project in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
F T Leisure's core business is the provision of innovative products and professional technical services to the commercial, municipal and private swimming pool industries. Their range of services includes the design, manufacture, installation, commissioning and/or refurbishment and maintenance of water treatment and filtration systems, moveable floors, booms and disabled access platforms, ozone and UV sterilisation, wave machines and leisure water features
Images are courtesy of Martine Hamilton Knight/Builtvision