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New design rolls out for disabled swimmers

Wednesday, October 31, 2018   Posted in: Resources and Information By: Administrator With tags: recreation, disabilities

Christchurch City Council Newsline: 29th October 2018

An innovative and unique wheelchair design created by a local company is helping disabled swimmers get in and out of Council pools.

The new chairs are now available at Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre and Taiora QEII Recreation and Sport Centre. They are the result of a collaboration between the Christchurch City Council and Christchurch engineering company Dynamic Composites which designed the steering wheel for Team New Zealand’s successful America’s Cup boat and a hi-tech bike for Olympic cycling champion Sarah Ulmer.

Chrystal tries out the new wet wheelchair design at Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre with her carer Jess.Council Recreation and Sport staff approached Dynamic Composites for help after a local mum gave feedback that she found it difficult taking her son swimming because the current wheelchairs didn’t meet his needs.

Council Recreation and Sport Co-ordinator Linda Healion spoke to customers and staff at Council pools and put together a wish-list of improvements that would make it easier for disabled people to move between the changing rooms and the water.

Dynamic Composites Managing Director Milton Bloomfield and Technical Manager Dan Barry were enthusiastic about the project and worked with Council staff to custom design and build four of the innovative new wheelchairs.

Mr Barry says the new chairs don’t have arm rests, which had been flagged as an issue for people when transferring in and out of the chair, but they have added other design features.

“The most satisfying part of the whole project is that these first chairs are being used in our hometown so we can see them in use ourselves. Getting lots of feedback from wet wheelchair users and their carers about the issues they were dealing with really helped us.

"Since delivery of the first four chairs we have been working closely with council staff and a range of user groups to gather feedback and further improve the design," he says.

Lynette Wilson is one of the Managers at the Chris Ruth Centre which cares for adults with disabilities. She says the new chairs are great for her clients. “They have lovely rounded edges which protect people from being scratched and being made out of carbon fibre makes them much lighter for pushing around a busy pool facility.

“The footplates move out of the way meaning there is less chance of tripping or getting limbs caught and the four-point harness across the chest and hips makes the user feel safe and supported.

“As a centre for very high needs, we’d like to thank the designers for listening to our opinions and taking them on board.”

Council Recreation and Sport Activities and Events Manager Martin McGregor says the new chairs are a vast improvement because they're more durable than the older models and easier to service and get replacement parts for. They also have rubber wheels so they don’t need to be regularly pumped up.

“These chairs are industry-leading, there isn’t anything like this in use anywhere else in the country at the moment. We’ve listened to our customers and we’re putting people with disabilities at the forefront and making sure they have the best access to our centres.”

The new wet wheelchairs will gradually replace the old ones in use at other Council pools. The Council has contacted industry body, New Zealand Recreation Association, and Swimming NZ to let them know about the new designs.