Lifts Improve Swimming Pool Access

A hi-tech lift which helps people to get in and out of swimming pools is being installed at a swimming pool in Hampshire.

The £10,000 Poolpods - a unique lift platform that fits to the side of pools - was dreamed up in a design competition run by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) as part of preparations for the London 2012 Games.

It is set to help people with disabilities who are less mobile or pregnant.

The ODA, which was in charge of the Olympic build, made it part of planning conditions for the construction of the London 2012 Aquatics Centre.

The international sports venue, which is currently being adapted so it has community use for people with different swimming levels, along with Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the spiritual home of the Paralympics, will be among the first to get the new pods fitted.

A platform lift enables less mobile people to remain standing as they enter the water.

There is also a submersible wheelchair allowing users to transfer from their own wheelchair in the privacy of the changing room. Once in the Poolpod, the user activates the system by using an electronic wristband.

The system, which remains level at all times, takes around 20 seconds to lower the user into the water and can be stowed neatly at the side of the pool.

Swimmer Susie Rodgers, a triple Paralympic bronze medallist, tried out a prototype that has been tested at east London's Mile End Leisure Centre, in the Olympic host borough of Tower Hamlets.

She said:

''London 2012 was fantastic for raising awareness of disabled sport and the introduction of the Poolpod will add towards the legacy of the Games by improving access to the water for everyone in a sport I owe so much to.''

The winning design, backed by £280,000 from the London Marathon Charitable Trust to create a prototype, has already won a New Product of the Year award at NAIDEX National 2012 - the UK's largest disability, homecare and rehabilitation event.

British Swimming, with Sport England, has now bought seven Poolpods, which are being installed in a trial scheme across England.

Dennis Hone, the ODA and LLDC chief executive , said:

''Using the power of the Games, we have introduced a step change in making swimming pools more accessible.

''Through challenging companies to design a better, more independent way of getting people into the water, this excellent new system clearly demonstrates the legacy value ODA has built into all aspects of London 2012, in expanding future sporting and leisure participation and delivering opportunities for jobs and growth to UK-based businesses. I am delighted that the Poolpod can be used in the Aquatics Centre.''

The Poolpods are also being installed at the Basingstoke Aquadrome in Hampshire, Bolton One in Lancashire and the West Park Leisure Centre in Derbyshire.

John Bryant, chairman of The London Marathon Charitable Trust, said:

''Swimming is one of the best ways of keeping active and it is wonderful to have been able to play a part in the creation of a product that will open up access to pools for people with a range of requirements. Lifts and hoists can often be cumbersome and even off-putting for those wanting to get into the water independently and with minimum fuss.

''We are confident from trials that the Poolpod is a fantastic piece of British-designed kit that will be seen as a natural option for leisure centres up and down the country.''

Kate McKnight, head of facilities development at British Swimming, said:

''The introduction of a new portable system for getting people into the water will be a great asset for increasing participation in swimming, particularly among those who feel swings and hoists are obtrusive.''