Pools opened for Ontarians with disabilities

An Ottawa woman who uses a wheelchair has successfully lobbied the provincial government to change the rules during the pandemic so those who need to swim for medical reasons can still access municipal pools.

Ottawa woman lobbied province to allow therapeutic swimming during shutdown

People who swim for therapeutic reasons will be allowed to use the pool at the Nepean Sportsplex during certain hours. (Kate Porter/CBC)

People with disabilities who swim for therapeutic reasons can now access municipal pools despite the latest shutdown 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. 

Mary Jane Clinkard successfully lobbied the province to relax the rules for people with disabilities. 'This will help a lot of people,' she told CBC. (Submitted by Mary Jane Clinkard)

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 shutdown 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 chlorinated 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.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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