In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a mother was escorted by police from a public swimming pool because she allowed her son to wear floaties. Her son has cerebral palsy. The pool rules prohibit floaties. Somehow, I think this could have been handled in a way that didn’t require police involvement.
Legally speaking, public swimming pools are required to be ADA compliant. This means that public pools, (and the ones in hotels and motels) must meet the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The pools must have permanent lifts or underwater ramps that will provide access into and out of the pool for people who have disabilities.
I’m not sure what the ADA has to say about floaties, though. Floaties are small, inflatable, bands that go around a child’s arm. They are designed to help a child stay afloat while he or she is learning how to swim. The effectiveness has been disputed. Another name for floaties is “water wings”.
A mother named Jen Wymer took her son, Max, to a public swimming pool in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The pool is called the North Park pool, and is located in Allegheny County. She allowed her son Max to use floaties.
Max has cerebral palsy. According to the Mayo Clinic, cerebral palsy is “a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth”. Symptoms include impaired movement associated with exaggerated reflexes or rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, unsteadiness of walking, or some combination of these.
The lifeguard at the pool asked Jen Wymer to remove the floaties that Max was using. The lifeguard said it was against the rules of the pool to use them. The actual rule states the items that are prohibited in the pool and pool area. It includes:
“Life preservers (even Coast Guard approved) and water-wings. Exception: Specialized floatation devices for disabled patrons ONLY.”
Jen Wymer explained to the lifeguard that Max had cerebral palsy. I think a reasonable person would conclude that this was a disability. However, the lifeguard insisted that “rules are rules”, and would not allow it. Jen Wymer spent some time holding up Max in the water so that he could swim. After her arms got too tired, she let him put the floaties back on.
Eventually, this led to the lifeguard manager coming over and requesting that the floaties be removed. She refused, so the lifeguard called the police. When the police arrived, they escorted Jen Wymer and her son from the pool.
It took a note from Max’s doctor to prove to the workers at the pool that Max really did require the use of floaties. He and his mother have since been allowed to return to the pool, and Max has been allowed to use the floaties that help him. Somehow, I feel like this situation could have been handled in a different way that didn’t involve a police escort away from the pool.
Image by Jo Naylor on Flickr