Crows in the air

Last one, I swear, because this must be boring the shit out of you all (Or boiling your piss, or both).

Current draft of a letter to Local Pool saying “Oi! Equality Act!”, already reviewed once by the lovely CSL, but posted up here so that the rest of you can have a crack at improving it too. I’m worried it’s so long that the Policymakers’ eyes will glaze over;

Dear People That Make Policy,

I am a long-time customer of Local Public Baths, and on Friday 16th Oct (2015) noticed a new sign in the female changing rooms instructing patrons to “Change and shower as discreetly as possible when school-age children were present”. Due to the timings of swimming club sessions and the lack of dedicated adult swims, there are nearly always school-age children in the changing rooms, and there is no way to guarantee their absence for the full duration of changing, as even if they are not present initially they may suddenly arrive.

After asking a member of staff to clarify, I was told that “discreet” in this context meant that patrons were no longer allowed to take off their swimming kit in the shower in order to wash properly, or to change their clothes next to their lockers (Instead, to use the cubicles provided). I currently change on the bench by the lockers, as I am unable to carry my bag, shoes, towel, poolside medication and water from the cubicles to the lockers whilst walking with a crutch, and because my disability gives me very poor balance and coordination along with regular injuries and fast-onsetting fatigue, making changing in a small, locked cubicle with no handrails extremely difficult and possibly dangerous.

After telling him that this worried me, for the above reasons, I was told that I could either arrive fifteen minutes late to sessions (to make it more likely that I was the only person in the changing room whilst I changed) or to use the disabled changing rooms across the corridor.

To a lesser, but not inconsiderable extent, I am worried about the effect that not properly washing after a swim would have, as due to the fatigue which is an inherent part of joint hypermobility syndrome I am usually unable to shower again after getting home. The same, presumably, applies to the many elderly customers who also use the changing room showers as showers.

On the 25th of October, I phoned the centre to ask about the provision of disabled changing, and was informed that the disabled changing room has no lockers, meaning that disabled customers must change and shower in the disabled changing room, walk through the (usually cold) external corridor into the main, non-accessible changing room to use a locker, then either attempt the step-up and step-down through the main shower onto the poolside, or go back out into the cold external corridor and through another door to reach the pool. Each of these routes involves opening two to three heavy, non-power-assisted doors, even more times than an abled person would be required to open them in order to reach the poolside. I also do not believe it would be possible for a customer in a wheelchair to negotiate through the tight right-angled corner into the non-accessible changing room.

Upon visiting the centre on the 25th of October, I attended the evening swim and used the disabled changing room, and found it to be completely unsuitable for anyone with mobility issues – There is a provision of only two grab rails, the shower does not produce hot water, there are no coat or bag hooks or fixed benches, and walking down the outer corridor (much further than the distance needed to use the non-accessible changing rooms) in wet swimming kit, with my possessions in one hand, leaning on a crutch and with bare feet was incredibly taxing due to the cold, not to mention the problem of dragging mud into the pool on the way in. It was only with the help of a member of staff that I managed to get through the changing room doors on the way in to the pool, as I had to carry my coat, bag, boots, poolside equipment, towel and locker token in one hand, whilst using the crutch in my other hand, and thus could not open the door.

I am concerned that this new policy of “discreet” changing will disproportionately affect elderly and disabled swimmers, as the people most likely to both wash at the pool and to change by their lockers.

Please could you review this new policy – Either clarifying “discretion” to acknowledge the necessity of washing and changing safely for many disabled or elderly customers, providing accessible changing which meets BS8300 standards as set out by Sport England (preferably with access directly to the poolside), or by timetabling regular adult-only swims with suitable buffers to ensure that all children have left the changing rooms with adequate time for patrons to change before the start of their session. Any other reasonable accommodations would be appreciated, and I would be happy to consult with you on the issue of disabled access.

Yours faithfully,

Percy T. Dugong

24 thoughts on “Crows in the air

  1. It is long, but I think in this instance the fine detail is essential to your complaint. Let’s see what others say! Good luck with kicking some butts here. C xxx

    • Thank you 😀 I’ve not got access to a printer, so I’m going to have to wait until I get to Best Friend’s house to print it out and send it, which could be a few weeks. Have decided that I want to go with printed correspondance, because it leaves a more literal paper trail.

      I’m going to phone the advice people once I’m a bit more awake, and see what they say.

    • See, that’d just result in me spending my entire session straining theatrically, before finally either giving up, or producing a plume of blood and a neutron star that sinks immediately without trace.

  2. Your posts make me very grateful for the abundant and generally well designed pool provisions in my own council area. I hope they improve the disabled changing rooms and make them actually accessible in the near future. Although I’m confused – are there no male changing rooms in this pool?

    • They’re at the other end of the corridor (On the opposite side of the pool as to where the female changing room is, basically a mirror image), I just couldn’t be bothered drawing them since I wasn’t using them. At sme point, I’ll get around to adding them though, thank you for reminding me 🙂

      • Ours are generally laid out as male on one side, female at the other end but on the same side, and in between a disabled changing room that goes directly to the pool. I will keep an eye out for how heavy the doors are from the disabled changing area to poolside though.

      • Interesting, thank you 😀

        I think the problem with Local Baths is that it’s a really old building that’s just been extended over the years – So a more modern facility would have better disabled access (The standard now seems to be a “changing village” where everyone is in a cubicle, and a handful of large cubicles with showers and attached lockers are provided for the disabled.)

        The “bath” part of our building was built in the 1920s, with old-fashioned poolside changing rooms, then the changing rooms on the outside were added in the 1950s, then the reception area was added even later than that.

        Ironically, the original 1920s layout looks like it would probably have been fairly accessible (Straight in through the front door onto the poolside, into a poolside cubicle where you can call for help easily if you fall, and you could easily install grab rails, no need to faff on with lockers because you just leave your stuff in the cube…)

  3. Not all rebuilding and improvement makes things better I guess. I’m almost ashamed of the 9 pools I can get into with my £375/year membership (even if not all pools are terribly clean or convenient location wise).

    • That’s not that expensive at all – Doing my own maths; I average three swims a week, fifty-two weeks a year, which is 156 in total (This is allowing for those weeks where I go twice a day, and those fortnights where I’m in and out of hospital, so not swimming at all).

      Average cost of a swim is about £2 a time, so that’s £312 for a the full year, which (Considering I’m in one of the cheapest local authorities in the country) makes it about par 😀

      Also, heh, judging by the KAL site, we’re basically neighbours. Which pools does the membership give access to? It might be worth me defecting across the border…

      • All pools in Kirklees, mine is a corporate membership so slightly cheaper but the next lower is about £50 less if you don’t go to the Stadium. They’re running a 25% off offer at the moment too and I think you can freeze your membership for 3 months total per year if you’re say in hospital etc.

      • I presumably won’t be able to get a disability discount there (Since I’m not in Kirklees LA) but I might start going along to individual sessions, and see if I can maintain a routine there – The big reason I go to the pool I go to is because it’s literally 100 yards from my house, so with a couple of sit-downs on the way up the road, I can just walk there and back.

        It’ll be worth getting on the bike and planning my swims more carefully if I can get access to a sauna though.

        Thank you! And possibly see you at the pool…

    • Yeah, I would give my eye teeth for a sauna, but of the two nearby, one has really erratic opening hours, and the other is always full of students talking at top-volume about their Awesome Workout Bruv Look At My Gains And That Totty Samantha From Social Sciences Is Well Fit… Anathema to a good steam and stretch. 😀

      • Yeah I know what you mean, the steam room at the Stadium is currently out of order so after a 2km swim yesterday I ended up not being able to go into the sauna because it was crammed as a result.

      • Pretty much since I started thinking about complaining about the disabled facilities, I’ve been dreaming about persuading them to put in a sauna as well. They’re not that expensive, by council-budget standards, after all.

      • I can certainly recommend the Sunday lunchtime swim with sauna afterwards, although the public changing area is crap, I do believe there are separate disabled shower facilities available.

      • Ooh magic – Well, if you see a wobbly cripple, covered in tattoos, wearing a blue Yingfa kneeskin and spending as much time in the sauna as in the water, come and say hallo 😀

        It looks like a bit of a ride to get there, but for a change of scenery and a nice sauna it’ll be worth it.

      • 🙂 I recommend checking their Facebook page just in case there is an “accident” closing the pool etc. The pool is 2m deep throughout if they don’t screw up the moveable floor from earlier swims.

        Disabled parking is right outside the front door.

        For a quieter practice run the 7:30pm Saturday evening swim is usually good too.

      • Ahh, I do like a deep-water pool – Ours has a diving plunge at one end (3.5m) but the other side is hip-deep (about a metre, I think) and doing turns in it always feels precarious, even though I know it’s fine.

        They set the moving floor in Leeds at 2m when the Chinese team trained here before the 2012 Olympics, and it was an absolute delight to share the pool with them (Other than how old and creaky I suddenly felt).

      • Ooh, lovely. I just do about 5-8km breast stroke over the week so nothing fancy but swimming has helped combat back and neck pain and build muscle to support my joints (which are only very slightly hypermobile) and I’m glad to have a small pool near home and work plus several large ones I can access on weekends.

        One downside of the moveable floor that can divide the pool in two is that sometimes the floor gets stuck and they have to cancel swims at short notice 😦

      • D’oh… one main issue I just realised is that you wouldn’t get into the sauna without a membership 😦

        You could however call them to see if you can do a test visit?

      • Sounds like about the same kind of level that I train at (But swapping breastroke for freestyle, because the circle kick isn’t good for my hips) and it really does just gently improve matters.

        It’s the classic story though – the fancier the tech, the more easily it can break…

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