Pool Accessibility and Missing the Point

8 Jul

While I appreciate both Ralph Baird (Aquatics Director) and Tony Castilli (Director of Communications) taking the time to respond to me, they both missed the point. The point wasn’t to get a form email/comment saying thanks for the concern and we value everyone’s accessibility, please call ahead when you’re coming. The point and issue is the fact that this is an extremely SIMPLE fix. Unlock the gate. You don’t even have to keep it open – just unlock it so that those of us who can’t walk down the stairs can open the gate and walk in just like those who don’t have strollers or wheelchairs can do. I shouldn’t have to call attention to myself (literally) just to get my daughter and myself to the pool. And neither should a handicapped person – that’s just cruel.

There’s no money involved, no monkeying around with facility architecture, and no heavy lift – just unlock the gate. If the lifeguards are that worried about people walking in without paying, then staff a table at that entrance to collect money. The driveway up to the gate is perfectly accessible by those with strollers and those in wheelchairs so to keep the gate off the driveway unlocked is really a no brainer.

I don’t think that the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed so that facilities could just tell patrons to call them ahead of time instead of allowing them to use the facility just as an able-bodied person could. How insensitive of Alexandria and its pool operators.

The secondary issue here is the utter lack of respect that the lifeguards working seem to have for the patrons. Yes, I was not super nice this weekend after I asked, again, why the gate isn’t open – but that’s only because every time I come, and every time I ask I met with major attitude about what an inconvenience it is to the pool staff for them to have the gate unlocked. “People will walk in without paying” and “if you don’t like it, go to another pool” are unacceptable comments. 1. Most people will NOT walk in without paying – that’s not saying much for city residents, and 2. Telling me to go to another pool because I’m asking you to do your job is astonishing.

Again, I cannot believe that Alexandria City has nothing – not one word – to say about the attitude and rudeness of their employees. There are simple fixes to these problems. 1. Unlock the gate (off the driveway, not at the top of the stairs – that would defeat the purpose if the gate unlocked was at the top of a set of stairs) and tell your lifeguards to knock off the attitude. That the pool manager allows this to happen makes it all that much worse.

I love living in Alexandria, the neighborhoods are great, the shopping, restaurants, family-friendly activities (usually), and people make this place a great town to raise a family in – but the response – both the comment in my first post, and the email I received is incredibly disheartening and disappointing. It’s unacceptable to be discriminated against because I’m a Mom, and even more infuriating that the city is seemingly unconcerned about wheelchair access to pool patrons. While I one day will be able to come to the pool without a stroller, that is usually not the case for wheelchair bound people.


2 Responses to “Pool Accessibility and Missing the Point”

  1. Laura July 9, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    I understand your concern more than you know. My son was in a wheelchair for all of his short life and it really changes your perspective on how you get around in the world. I also go to the Old Town pool a lot and my daughter’s swim team is based there. When we started swimming there, the pool was is such bad shape, I’m surprised anyone would have wanted to swim there. I do just have to respond and say that Ralph Baird, per my request, was the only person to make sure that the pool was up to code for health and safety. Before, when summer came around, the bathrooms weren’t even cleaned. It was like they just opened the doors without any prep or cleaning. And at that point, all of the gates were unlocked and anybody would go in and use the bathrooms. With the other gates open, we also had a scare in the bathroom with a child and a suspicious person. I guess what I’m saying is, again, I totally understand where you are coming from (I would like to see all of our playgrounds and outdoor pools handicapped accessible, but that’s another point), but I also see the City’s side in that they are trying to keep the pool and safe place to go. From my experience, Ralph Baird has done a lot to make that true. Thanks for letting me put my two cents out there.

  2. sassingme July 12, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    Thanks Laura – Ralph Baird has been very willing to meet with me to discuss the issue, and I am grateful that the city is taking an interest. 🙂

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