Swimming is an activity that is enjoyed by all, young and old, male and female, rich and poor and a vast range of abilities. Water is the one medium where people with disabilities can enjoy a degree of independence not experienced elsewhere.
Chartwell Insurance, a completely independent insurance broker that offers a specialist, caring service for disabled customers, has sifted through what information is out there for swimmers with disabilities, their parents and carers who are just setting out in their discovery of the joy of swimming.
Many pools both privately run and those under local authority control provide sessions for people with disabilities and even run special clubs and events. The National Association for Swimming Clubs for People with Disabilities has been set up to encourage and support swimming clubs for people with disabilities.
Ableize, owned and run by people with disabilities, is a directory of disability, mobility and health resources in the UK and Europe. It has a page listing disabled swimming clubs across the UK.
The most important factor to consider is what facilities individual pools offer. How accessible are the changing rooms? Do they have hoists for entry into the pool? A wheelchair ramp to a shallow area? Steps with a rail to get into the pool? And what temperature is the water? Are there special showers? Swimming-Techniques-Learn has a comprehensive section for disabled and special needs swimmers with factors that should be considered before taking a trip to your local pool.
Taking a child with a disability swimming can be a special bonding time for parent or carer and child. Swimming.org offers words of encouragement in this area and trumpets the benefits of swimming for a disabled person.
STA, the world’s largest swimming teaching and lifesaving organisation, has developed its disability swim scheme and introduced the Penguin Series of awards and badges. This has two distinct programmes – the Emperor Penguin Series that develops strength and stamina and the Rockhopper Penguin Series that develops skills. Badges and certificates are available as swimmers progress.
If as a carer or parent you are nervous about taking your disabled charge swimming then consider the Royal Lifesaving Society’s Rescue Test for Supervisors of Swimmers with Disabilities. It’s designed for anyone who may need to assist in a rescue while responsible for the supervision of swimmers with disabilities.