Waterproof wheelchairs are rolling into three Calgary spray parks, part of a pilot project looking at making water parks more accessible. 

The chairs are waterproof and wick moisture away, ensuring users can dry off and those grabbing the chair after it has already been in the water won't have to sit on a wet seat. 

Adjustable straps, head rests and brakes make the chairs as customizable as possible and allows for children to either play independently, or with help.

'Great idea,' says mother of 3 kids with mobility issues

Patricia Wheatley has three children with mobility issues, including one child who uses a wheelchair as a full paraplegic. 

"I just read that some of the parks were putting in water chairs for kids who use chairs," she said. "Great idea. Great idea."

Wheatley, however, said her son's positioning needs likely rule out his ability to take advantage of the program. 

"But there's a huge variety of kids who use any kind of mobility device, but wheelchairs specifically, that don't have those same positioning needs. That would be really beneficial for them, for sure," she said. 

"I think any time a city does more to decrease barriers and to help kids play amongst their peers at the same level, is a positive."

The chairs are available at:

  • The Variety Spray Park in South Glenmore Park, which is the city's first barrier-free spray park, at 90 Ave. & 24 St. S.W.
  • Canmore Park at 2020 Chicoutimi Dr.  N.W.
  • Rotary Park at 617 1st St. N.E.

The Children's Charity of Alberta (Variety Alberta), an organization that supports children with disabilities, helped advocate for the chairs, but the project is a city initiative.

On Tuesday, one of the chairs was on display at the accessible spray park built by Variety Alberta in South Glenmore Park.

"Having these chairs available at the park will now offer opportunities for individuals who don't have these chairs, or accessibility to these chairs — to come out and play, to get wet and have fun and be involved in an environment that they didn't have the opportunity to be participating in prior," said Jana Hands is the managing director and communications director of Variety Alberta.

Users can sign out the chairs without a deposit from attendants on site. 

The pilot was supposed to start at the beginning of August, but issues at the U.S. border caused delays, so Hands is hoping for a warm fall in order to stretch the season.

"To the best of my ability, what will happen is that we will keep this as a pilot for the remainder of the year and get as much data information as we can and carry it into next year," she said.

'Fundamental human right'

Larry Horeczy, managing director and project director for Variety, said the organization's experience with the park they helped build in South Glenmore proves accessibility is important.

"Everything that we've seen completely reinforces what we heard, which was, if you build it to be fully inclusive, all children are going to enjoy it and all children want to come here," he said. 

He said the wheelchairs are just one more way to remove barriers and allow children of all abilities to play together. 

"The wheelchairs are one part of a fundamental human right of all children to be able [to] belong and participate, to be active, to be social and belong," said Horeczy.