When Linda Cameron met senior Lismore City Council staffer Brent McAlister at a Christmas party last year, she casually bent his ear about limitations for access at the Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre for her daughter Hayley, 7, who has tuberous sclerosis. Hayley cannot walk and is largely confined to a wheelchair.
"They organised a meeting with me and voila!" Linda said, pointing at the new water wheelchair beside her. "It's great how they just listened."
While an adult chair was purchased last year, it wasn't the right size for Hayley's smaller stature, so they bought a new water wheelchair with child adaptor and restraints worth $3500. This means Hayley can be safely secured in a chair and taken to the water's edge, where she is then unclipped from the restraints and can be pushed into the water to play.
"Kids benefit from being in the water and Hayley's in a chair all day, unless she's in her standing frame or sitting on the floor at home. For her to be able to get in the water and kick her legs around and move is a great experience for her," Linda said. "I wasn't coming to the pool very often, maybe once a month, because it was just too hard. Here she was sitting on this over-sized wheelchair in the changeroom and there was no support or safety restraints. I used to have to rely on my son Jordan, 10, to hold her so I could do other things like pack up her normal wheelchair and the change table before we could leave the room. Jordon loves swimming and now with the water wheelchair we can come here, he can go off and swim and I can get Hayley ready much quicker."
Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre manager Graham Walker said huge numbers of people with a disability used the facility as it was generally well-designed and ensuring continued easy access for them was a high priority.
"It's something Council takes very seriously," he said. "Linda made us aware of it and expressed a need… I think it's fantastic (that it's happened so quickly) and shows Council is being responsive to different community needs.
"We hope to purchase another one next year for the Memorial Baths, but Council has to work with limited funds, so we couldn't do two this year."