26 Sept 2022

Apology demanded over lack of disability access to Laois swimming pool

Apology demanded over lack of  disability access to Laois swimming pool

The swimming pool in Portlaoise Leisure Centre, shut since March.

An apology is demanded for Laois people with disabilities who cannot use a refurbished public leisure centre.

Portlaoise Leisure Centre was upgraded and reopened this year after a two year closure, but wheelchair users cannot swim there.

A new hoist was not installed as part of the extensive repairs.

Now Cllr Thomasina Connell is demanding it be installed urgently, while several councillors want an apology.

"I dug deeper and found that the chair there hadn't been serviced for years so now it cannot be used. I find it actually astounding. People who rely on this facility the most, now can't use it because the thing wasn't serviced, it's absolutely scandalous," she said.

She tabled a motion to the September meeting of the Portlaoise Municipal District, asking that the council immediately install a disability access chair so people with additional needs can get into the pool.

Cllr Willie Aird seconded.

"I can remember funding being provided for this. It was used by the school for children with special neesd. How was it allowed to reopen without that service for people with disabilities? An apology will have to come from Laois County Council to people with disabilities. I am aghast. i can't understand how this can happen. I ask Cllr Noel Tuohy as our representative on the leisure centre board to take this up," he said.

Cllr Touhy said he has "grave concerns".

"It is the first I heard of it. I think it is worthy of an apology to those who use it," he agreed.

Cllr Catherine Fitzerald agrees.

"It is so essential for people with a disability to use a pool, it is very beneficial. To think it is not there is scandalous," she said.

The council's Director of Services Simon Walton is Portlaoise Town Manager. He undertook to get a statement from the operators and if required, the Director of Services with responsibility for the centre.

Cllr Aird requests that they be emailed the statement within a week.

"Schools will be using the pool this week, and a child with a disability will be left at the side. It's a backward step. If that's not an emergency what is? The people of our county deserve an apology," he said.

The official response to the motion states that an order is being placed this month for a new hoist, following an assessment of tender prices.

The hoist is part of a wider tender put out by Laois County Council for disabillity access at the public centre. Two toilet cubicles are to be conveted to a single disabled toilet and equipment replaced in the existing disabled changing room. Existing doors throughout are to be fitted with automatic door opening devices. 

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