Council to explore disability access at sports sites

THE Council is to explore if existing disability inclusivity can be improved in sports facilities.
Sinn Fein’s Councillor Chris McCaffery told a meeting of the Environmental Committee he’d been contacted by staff from a school who use council sports facilities and enquired if disability inclusivity could be increased.
He said: “Many children missed out during the pandemic, including their swimming classes. It’s positive these classes have now returned and our facilities are being used. However the school is concerned children with disabilities could be restricted from full participation in these classes.”
Proposing council look into this in detail, Councillor McCaffrey added: “I’m aware there are lots of efforts to include children of all abilities …but we improve and increase disability and inclusivity in our facilities. The staff member I spoke to was quite upset that some children were unable to fully take part.”
Seconding this, Councillor Victor Warrington, Ulster Unionist felt this was something the Disability Advisory Group could examine and: “There’s certainly potential and we’ll get that on the agenda for the next meeting.”
Director of Community, Health and Leisure John Boyle advised he would liaise with the school directly adding: “We actually do a lot in relation to disability and inclusivity in our leisure centres. We have a sensory room in the Lakeland Forum and have just got funding for another in the Bawnacre Centre as well.”
He explained in the last 18 months disability pods have been installed in council swimming pools to allow people to get into and out of the water, as well as free swimming lessons for those with disabilities whether for learning or improvement.
Mr Boyle stressed, “All of our programmes are very inclusive. We also have the GP referral scheme and the Move More programme.
Disability groups use our centres on a regular basis and they get a concession of 50 per cent of the normal rate. Where assistance is needed, for example for those with sight difficulties, we have a ‘Buddy’ system who is able to go free. We do quite a bit but I’m not adverse to looking as to how we can improve. There is a lot going on around disability in our facilities.”
Independent Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh told members council staff are very proud of the way services are tailored to facilitating engagement with everyone, regardless of ability.
“We just heard a very comprehensive listing of existing provision and catering for everyone, but I too would like to extend what we do.”, he said.
Councillor McCaffrey welcomed the support of members and further raised the issue of new social distancing rules for swimming instructors and if this could prohibit them getting into the water with customers.

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