Aquatic Facility Trends and Visitor Expectations
There are a wide variety of aquatic facilities that provide recreational swimming opportunities:
- Indoor and outdoor pools at community centers, recreational sports complexes, hotels and fitness centers
- Neighborhood pools operated through the local park and recreation departments
- Membership-oriented swim clubs
- Aquatic theme parks with wave action pools, specialty pools, lazy river rides and water slide attractions
- Outdoor recreation areas including designated swimming areas at rivers and lakeshores
These types of public aquatic facilities are required to be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Bill Ramos, Faculty Lecturer in the Department of Recreation and Park Administration at Indiana University, identifies current construction trends in aquatic facilities as indicative of the popularity of swimming as a recreational activity "Recently, the construction of traditional competitive environments is down while community water parks and aquatic centers are up." Increasingly common in these community aquatic facilities are splash parks, such as the one found at Riverside Aquatic Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Splash parks are less expensive to build and operate than traditional pools and bright colors and themes make the splash park fun and enticing. Many splash parks are designed with a zero depth entry enabling people with mobility impairments to use the same entrance as other visitors. The lack of pooling water also encourages people of all ages and abilities to experience the fun.
With the increase of newly constructed community aquatic centers, it is critical for facility staff to be aware of the needs and expectations of their guests with disabilities. People with disabilities want to be able to access aquatic facilities to swim. They also have very specific expectations for their visit including:
- Accessible facilities and amenities from the parking area and main entry, to the reception desk, locker rooms, pools and concessions;
- Quality customer service from aquatic facility staff that are sensitive and knowledgeable about the needs of people with disabilities;
- Opportunities for physical activity and exercise promoting wellness and improved fitness;
- Modification of aquatic facility policies to permit accommodations for disability-related needs such as adapted equipment and assistive devices; and
- Opportunities to socialize and recreate with family and friends.