An Uplifting Experience

Eric Herman Headshot

Eric HermanUnless you’ve been hiding out in the proverbial cave, you’ve likely heard all about the new Americans with Disabilities Act requirement that all commercial pools be equipped with handicap lifts. No doubt a boon for lift manufacturers and their dealers, the law is nonetheless controversial with critics who cite it as an example of government over reaching. 

After all, the lifts are unsightly and expensive and it should be up to commercial pool owners as to whether or not to make them available to motion-impaired guests, so goes the argument. Personally, I understand that frustration and to an extent see the point. On the other hand, however, there is something to be said for providing access for people who need it in order to enjoy the benefits of getting wet. 

Case in point, I was recently preparing for a swim at my local health club, which has a lovely indoor eight-lane 25-meter pool, when an elderly woman confined to a wheelchair was lowered into the pool using a permanently mounted lift. There was nothing particularly unusual about the situation, probably something that happens multiple times daily given the facility’s heavy use. 

Still, I found it difficult not to watch, discreetly, of course, especially considering the advent of the new law. What struck me most was the transformation that took place in the woman’s spirit and mobility. In the wheelchair, she appeared grumpy and encumbered. The process of getting in the lift was a bit awkward, but with the help of a trained and obviously caring female attendant, she was in the water in probably less than a minute. Wearing a flotation vest, the woman floated free of the contraption and started slowly moving up and down a lap lane using her arms in a sort of abbreviated breast stroke. 

The look of contentment and joy on her face was palpable. One moment she was confined in a wheelchair and seconds later she was liberated in welcoming waters buoyed and free to move without hindrance. What a feeling that must be for people in similar situations! 

I’m not ashamed to admit it brought a tear to my eye. In that moment, I was deeply proud to be part of an industry that provides that kind of experience, a truly wondrous activity that’s there for everyone, young and old, physically able or handicapped. 

As luck would have it, the lane next to hers opened up and I started in with my half-mile routine. At one point we were both at one end of the pool. I caught her eye and asked, “Having fun?”

She replied, “Oh yes, it feels wonderful. I just live for this!” 

Wow! I tell you, if there was ever a more honest and profound endorsement of aquatic exercise I have not heard it. In this case, that amazing experience was made easy by the presence of a lift. 

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