BBC News Thursday, 3 April 2008 07:03 UK
A mother claims disabled facilities at the new Cardiff International Pool are inadequate after her daughter had a “humiliating” experience there.
She also claimed disabled changing rooms lacked basics, such as bins, and that staff treated them insensitively.
The £32m pool’s general manager said they would consider making changes.
Disability organisations have also appealed for better facilities.
Mrs Perkins said: “What message are we sending out to the world with that pool?
“‘Come to see our international pool but don’t bring any disabled people because it will be too awkward?'”
Naomi has a variety of disabilities, including microcephaly (a neurological disorder characterised by a smaller head), cerebral palsy, epilepsy and a profound autistic spectrum disorder.
Swimming helps her mobility, strengthens her muscles and brings different sensory experiences.
Mrs Perkins said that while the actual swimming pool itself at Cardiff Bay was “brilliant”, the changing facilities made the visit unnecessarily difficult.
“There was nowhere for me to actually change Naomi in the disabled changing room,” said Mrs Perkins, 61, who has recently had knee surgery
“My husband, who is nearly 70, and I had to lie three towels on the floor and change her there. It meant we couldn’t shower her because it would get the floor wet.
There, they had special electric beds that carers can use to change disabled people without having to lift them or crouch on a floor.
“Why hasn’t the International Pool got them?” said Mrs Perkins.
“I could understand it if the technology wasn’t available, but it is. It would make life so much easier. This is the 21st Century for goodness’ sake.”
Mrs Perkins said she was also upset that staff at the Cardiff pool had demanded she prove that she was Naomi’s carer before letting her in on a concession pass.
“It’s not as if I was after a free swim,” said Mrs Perkins.
“Looking after disabled people is hard work.”
Andy Rickell, an executive director at Scope, the disability organisation, said: “Sporting venues and other leisure facilities need to be fully accessible so everyone can use and enjoy them.”
Mencap, the learning disability charity, added it was running a campaign called Changing Places to highlight the need for proper disabled changing facilities, including in public toilets.
The new 50m, 10-lane swimming pool, was built as part of Cardiff’s new International Sports Village (ISV) and opened to the public in January.
Simon Hughes, the pool’s general manager, said they welcomed feedback and would consider making necessary changes.
He said: “On the issue of what provision is available to disabled people, it’s not something we can comment on and would need to be taken up with the designers of the building.
“But we will consider customers’ needs so if there’s anything specific we will look at that.
“We value the feedback of customers to improve the site.”
He added that the pool had a “goodwill” policy of letting carers go in free, which should be applied on a common sense basis.
Mr Hughes said he needed to speak to his staff to find out what had happened to Mrs Perkins but said he believed there had been a breakdown in communications.
Parkwood Leisure, the company which runs the swimming pool, declined to comment.