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.
Percy T. Dugong