Tracy Mearns, the mother who launched a petition calling on Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council to introduce special pool sessions at Lisburn Leisureplex for children with autism, has met with representatives of the council to discuss issues that have arisen.
Last week the Lisburn mother met with the Council’s Director of Leisure and Community Services, Mr Jim Rose, to discuss her proposals.
Mr Rose explained that the council wanted to facilitate people from all backgrounds in using the Lagan Valley Leisureplex and it is the council`s policy to endeavour to be fully inclusive. As the Leisureplex is one of the most popular leisure facilities in Northern Ireland, the council has to ensure that they are able to accommodate the request submitted through the petition within a busy schedule, and without setting a wider precedent.
The council is running a pilot scheme with the help of Autism NI during August to assess how the special sessions might work in practice and to identify any potential problems.
The feedback from this arrangement would also help inform a way forward.
In response, Mrs Mearns explained that in raising the petition, whilst the initial focus was in regard to achieving appropriate public sessions for children with autism, it was her desire to work with the council to achieve an acceptable outcome that would enable the Leisureplex to accommodate the needs of people with a range of special needs and disabilities, including such conditions as Autism, ADHD, Tourette’s, Fibromyalgia etc.
Mrs Mearns proposed that the council facilitate regular weekly or monthly sessions for an hour at a time during an off-peak period for people with a disability.
She indicated that her preference would be for the council to try and accommodate the sessions on a morning at weekends or at another time that would not upset bedtime routines or mean children being out late on school nights.
She also put forward some practical suggestions as to how the council could validate access entitlement for people with a disability who wished to avail of these special sessions.
In response council officers stated that they were happy to take this proposal forward to try and seek an outcome that was acceptable to all parties and in the interests of existing and potential customers with a disability.
A further meeting will be planned in the near future.