News / Calgary

City of Calgary pilots aquatic wheel chairs in splash parks

Water-safe chairs will help make splash play accessible for parents and children in three of Calgary's parks

Rotary Park in northeast Calgary has one of the aquatic wheelchairs.

Elizabeth Cameron/For Metro

Rotary Park in northeast Calgary has one of the aquatic wheelchairs.

Splash ‘em, throw water balloons at ‘em, – the city’s new aquatic wheelchairs aren’t afraid of a little H20.

Several of the water-hardy mobility aids were rolled out for the first time this weekend at three spray parks in the northwest, southwest and northeast quadrants of the city.

“It’s wonderful because individuals with power chairs and stuff like that can’t go to those splash parks,” said Joanne Dorn, director of development and public relations with the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta.

She called the investment a positive move for Calgary and said she’d like to see even more community areas adapted to be accessible in the future.

“For the people we serve with disabilities, (these spray parks are) just one more area in the city they can go to and feel included,” Dorn said.

The aquatic wheelchairs are available on a first come, first serve basis at the Canmore (2020 Chicoutimi DR  N.W.), Rotary (617 1 St. N.E) and South Glenmore/Variety (90 Ave. & 24 St. S.W.) spray parks until the facilities close in the fall.

Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell said the locations were chosen because city staff are on site to sign the aquatic wheelchairs in and out, as well as keep an eye on regular wheelchairs while their owners are enjoying the water park.

“It was an easy step for our splash parks, which are already wheelchair accessible with regular wheelchairs, but it’s hard on them and then they have to be dried out,” Farrell told Metro.

She said she heard about a water park in the U.S. that had the special chairs and immediately suggested the idea to the Calgary’s Parks Department, which worked with Variety Children’s Charity to source three of the water-hardy wheelchairs.

The initiative is considered a pilot project for now, but Farrell said she hopes the chairs are here to stay.

“We need to keep accessibility in mind – when it’s brought up, everyone wants to do the right thing, but we need a better understanding of what accessibility means,” Farrell said.

In the future, she said she'd like to see every splash park in Calgary equipped with aquatic wheelchairs.

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