Monday, February 16, 2015

Buoyancy is a great equalizer.

Ruth Jacklin is the Pool & Fitness Supervisor for the City of Dryden. She and her dedicated crew will be able to offer in the near future; full access to the big pool for peoples with disabilities and seniors with mobility impairments to enjoy and fully participate in all recreational activities.
“We received a water accessible wheelchair in 2003 as a donation from the Lions Foundation of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario,” explained Jacklin, “At the time, we partnered with and had the support of the Dryden Regional Health Centre’s Occupational Therapy Department.”

Jacklin describes that the permanent wheel chair accessible ramp has been giving people with disabilities and senior’s access to the small therapeutic heated pool since it was built in 1983. And that, right now, they are missing just one step to make the whole facility truly accessible.
“Thadeus Weiss contacted me and asked me about accessibility for people with disabilities and how far we had come towards achieving that goal. I told him (at the time) that the only step we are missing is lift for the main pool that would allow people with disabilities to be lifted into the water.”
Weiss was born and raised in Dryden. A spinal cord injury resulting from a diving accident in 1980 changed the course of his life. As a result; Weiss became a quadriplegic with great challenges, and strives to further the advances of public accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors in Ontario.

Ruth Jacklin pushing staff in chair.
“There is a big focus on accessibility,” said Jacklin, “We (the City of Dryden) have to provide access to a very diverse population and that includes people who have mobility issues. It’s something that we have always been able to do quite successfully. A lift for the main pool would bridge the existing small gap and greatly improve accessibility to the big pool."  

According to the City of Dryden’s multi-year Accessibility Plan, Jacklin believes that obtaining a chair pool lift will become a reality within two years, “It shouldn't take much longer than that, as it was identified and listed in our Multi-Year Accessibility Plan”. Weiss hopes his fund-raising efforts will bring about a faster time table in which residents of Dryden can enjoy a new lift, “…I talked it over with a friend that was behind me all the way on this project and we’re here.”

The City of Dryden’s Human Resources Project Coordinator, Colleen Brosseau believes collaborative efforts such as Weiss, is welcome news, “I am pleased to hear that there is someone from the public who would like to raise money for a pool lift. The City is working hard to look at all of its facilities and services to identify barriers and seek opportunities to eliminate them.”

Weiss wishes that the identity of his supporter to remain anonymous for the time being. Funding efforts would be made in a form a cheque. As well Weiss explained that there will be discussions made between himself and a member of the Dryden council to make all council members aware of what Jacklin and Weiss are trying to actualize. In addition, quotes for the necessary equipment needs to be done prior to identifying proper time-lines for the desired project.

Thunder Bay Community Living is a trust which Weiss hopes can provide long term funding, “It’s specifically designed for the inclusion of all disabled individuals. Not only the physically disabled but the intellectually disabled as well.” Weiss did not deny he misses home. Currently living in Thunder Bay, and serving on the Board of Directors of HAGI; he admits that finding the proper level of care and accessibility in Northwestern Ontario to be dismal. Raising funds for a portable chair lift for the main pool in Dryden would not only assist persons with disabilities living in the Dryden area; it would bring a community together.

“It’s an interesting situation to say the least,” commented Weiss, “This includes all multi-disabled aspects including our aging population with mobility issues, and trying to get everyone more involved within their community activities.”

Jacklin described it succinctly, “Buoyancy is a great equalizer.”

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