Weekend pool incident sparks conversation about ADA flexibility

A local family hopes by speaking out now, it could make a difference for future swimmers with disabilities.

Posted: Jun. 11, 2018 4:22 PM
Updated: Jun. 11, 2018 7:00 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - A trip to the public pool did not go as expected for one local family.

Over the weekend, Ryan Steiner and his wife tried to take their 2-and-a-half-year-old Kala to Deming Park Pool. But, Kala has cerebral palsy and needs special accommodations.

The flotation device the family brought for Kala wasn't approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, so it wasn't allowed at the pool.

Ryan was hoping there'd be an exception for his daughter. He claims the float is to help him hold Kala up in the pool, not to have her support herself, or be unaccompanied.

Pool lifeguards did offer the use of an ADA chair, as well as for the Steiner's to hold Kala without the float. However, Steiner was told there couldn't be any exceptions to the rule.

He says, "ADA is there for that purpose. To make exceptions. Reasonable modifications to a regular way of doing things to allow her to play with the other kids."

After being asked to leave the Deming Pool, Steiner says they were able to find a place for Kala to swim. But unfortunately, there weren't any other people in the pool. He says that by not being able to swim with others, Kala is missing out on social interaction that helps with her development.

Steiner says, "She couldn't observe other children doing neuro-typical and normal behavior. And that's what we want for her, is to be able to act and play with all of her peers."

News 10 spoke with Parks Superintendent Eddie Bird. He says he understands the parents’ frustration, but safety is something they have to enforce.

Bird says, "I think my staff handled the situation very well. My staff offered the chair, they offered they could swim with her as long as they held her. It's just that floating device is not a safe floating device and something we would let anyone use in the pool."

Ultimately, Steiner hopes by speaking out in this case, it opens the door for future swimmers with disabilities.

After interviewing Bird, he reached out to News 10 to say the pool is already researching ways to update its policies and practices when it comes to flotation devices. Bird hopes the changes will provide a better pool experience for all patrons.

Deming Park Pool rules and approved life jackets can be found online.

If you have any questions about the rules, you're asked to contact the Torner Center at (812) 232-0147.

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