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Hopes Paralympic fever will ‘inspire a generation’
7:00pm Saturday 15th September 2012 in News
Staff at a Craven sports centre hope people will be inspired by the Paralympics to make use of their cutting-edge facilities.
A charity this week warned that many of Britain’s gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools are ‘no-go zones’ for disabled people and will struggle to cope with an expected surge in interest in fitness activities, following the Paralympic Games.
However, Craven Pool and Fitness Centre, in Skipton , has won praise as it is an accredited Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) site – one of a handful in the country to offer gym equipment and facilities that can be used by both disabled and non-disabled people.
Among those making use of the facilities is Mark Wilkinson, a local physiotherapist based in Skipton, who has been working with a number of spinally injured customers at the centre.
Joan Ness, who has been using the fitness centre for six months, said: “The centre is absolutely brilliant, I hadn’t been able to swim for ten years and being back in the water was a wonderful feeling. The sessions with Mark have got me swimming again and have meant I’ve been able to walk in the pool. Being able to exercise has given me confidence and I feel much fitter and healthier.”
Penny Roberts, who regularly uses the fitness centre, said: “I went to the gym before I had my accident and didn’t think I’d be able to go again, but I’m amazed at how accessible the machines are. The staff and clients at the centre are all very friendly.”
She now travels 25 miles twice a week because she has no facilities locally that can compare to those in Skipton.
The centre was built and opened in August 2003, and because of its unique single floor design, disabled customers can access the facility with minimal fuss. The pools boast a unique pool hoist that allows customers to access the pools via a submersible wheelchair.
Lloyd Hancox, who manages the centre said: “Here at Craven Pool we have a first class facility with excellent staff and special provision throughout for people with disabilities. All of our kit with the exception of the Abcoaster and the rowing machines are IFI-accredited which means about 92 per cent of the kit is accredited.
“We were the first public/private operator in the country to introduce a Cross Trainer that also has IFI accreditation.
“A special thank-you must also go to three of our staff; Dave Potts, Neil Harrison and Cerin Rees whose ‘can do’ attitude has helped more disabled people access Craven Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre and have helped my patients use the facilities.”
Leader of Craven District Council Chris Knowles-Fitton said: “Craven Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre is a fantastic, fully accessible facility that allows people of all abilities to enjoy the pool and fitness suite. The Olympics and Paralympics are all about ‘inspiring a generation’ and Craven Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre is an ideal location to put this into practice for everyone.”
Leonard Cheshire Disability carried out a survey of leisure facilities, which showed many failed to cater properly for the disabled.
A spokesman said: “Gyms and leisure facilities are a crucial ‘first point of entry’ to sports and physical activity for most adults. Yet for many disabled people they are no-go zones. Inaccessible changing rooms, steps, poor staff training and lack of usable sports equipment are some of the common barriers that can prevent disabled customers from getting involved.”