People with disabilities who swim for therapeutic reasons can now access municipal pools despite the latest lockdown in Ontario.
An Ottawa woman who uses a wheelchair has successfully lobbied the provincial government to change the rules during the pandemic. Mary Jane Clinkard needs to swim to keep her muscles from atrophying, so it’s crucial for her to get in the water regularly.
Clinkard said when she received the good news last week, she felt relief.
“We don’t have to be shut out of exercise again,” she said.
The City of Ottawa will open the swimming pool at the Nepean Sportsplex for one hour each weekday morning, plus an extra hour on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Up to 40 people will be allowed in the pool during each session, and each swimmer must show a medical letter.
Municipal pools were closed for months during the initial lockdown last year, then again in January.
Clinkard, who has hypotonia, a neuromuscular disability, has worried she might lose her independence if she couldn’t swim to maintain her mobility. During the lockdown earlier this year, she told Ottawa Morning that her muscles felt weak, stiff and painful from lack of exercise, and she was concerned she’d need a personal support worker to get in and out of her wheelchair if she couldn’t get to the pool.
Clinkard said because the water is fluoridated and staff are very careful about cleanliness, catching COVID-19 at the pool isn’t a major concern for her.
She said she’s not the only one who has suffered from the pool closures, and was “overjoyed” to learn they’d reopen to people who need them.
“This will help a lot of people,” Clinkard said.