September 23, 2008

YWCA Orders Chair for Handicapped Swimmers


It could be up to a month before some handicapped swimmers have a way to get into the new pool at the YWCA.

The fitness facility on Quarrier Street spent almost $500,000 to put in a new pool to replace the old one.

The new pool features a 4-foot-wide wheelchair-accessible ramp that extends for almost the entire 60-foot length of the pool.

During the renovation process, however, a stationary hydraulic chair lift that had been used by some people to get into the water was removed.

Instead of replacing it with something similar, YWCA officials opted for a moveable, wheeled chair that could be used on the new ramp or in the shower room.

The chair was ordered only recently and isn't in yet, officials said.

"They've been looking diligently - they looked at more than 50 - but it's a fairly big purchase," marketing director Laura Jordan said. "We tried to make sure we got the one that's going to work the best."

Jordan said the chair should arrive within a month.

In the meantime, the ramp provides access for some who are handicapped or physically impaired, but not everyone can use it.

Angela Tolbert, a 29-year-old Charleston woman who has cerebral palsy, stopped in the YWCA last week to take a look around, and said she was upset there was no way for her to get into the pool.

She uses an electric wheelchair, so taking it down the ramp to get into the water is not an option.

"I just went over there to see if I could get in, and I expected the chair lift would still be there," Tolbert said. "I went into the bathroom to see if they had a shower chair with wheels, and they did not."

Tolbert has been doing her swimming therapy twice a week at the Charleston YMCA, but she said the downtown YWCA is closer to her home and would be more convenient.

Jordan said YWCA officials opted to install the ramp, along with the moveable chair, to accommodate swimmers with various physical handicaps.

Many, like Jordan, won't be able to take their wheelchairs into the water. But some people couldn't get out of their wheelchairs to get into a hydraulic lift. They have to be wheeled down the ramp.

"Having both has always been part of the plan," Jordan said. "The ramp also is helpful for a lot of people who can't step down in the pool or use the ladder. They might not necessarily be in a wheelchair, but a lot of them are elderly and it's difficult."

Other changes swimmers might have noticed since the new pool opened is its size.

The old pool was 20 by 60 feet, Jordan said. The swimming area of the new pool also is 20 by 60 feet, but there's an additional 4 feet of ramp space, she said.

The pool isn't as deep as it was before, however.

The depth ranges from 3 feet to 6 feet. The old pool was 7 feet at its deepest point.

"Since there is no diving board, there really wasn't a need for it to be that deep," Jordan said. "Most of the pool's use is for aqua-aerobics classes, and the water only needs to be up to chest or shoulder level at the most."

A shallower pool allows for more space for those classes, she said.

The YWCA still is in the midst of trying to raise $2 million for its Raise the Roof campaign, which will fund other renovations at the 88-year-old facility.

Contact writer Kris Wise Maramba at [email protected] or 304- 348-1244.

Originally published by DAILY MAIL STAFF.

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