It looks like it is going to be a long hot summer here in Australia. The media flashes images on the screen of “Ways to stay cool” but I don’t see any pics of people with a disability. We find it challenging to keep BJ cool so I thought it was a good time to talk about how to stay cool in summer and access fun.
When it comes to disability there is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach due to the differing levels of support needed but I’ve put together a few ideas.
1. PUBLIC POOLS
Many public pools offer facilities for people with a disability to access the water. Usually the newer the pool, the easier it is.
We’ve been researching pools in Sydney and found that many have pool chairs, ramp access and excellent accessible change and shower facilities.
Hornsby Pool, Macquare University and Ryde Aquatic Centre all have these facilities and disabled parking spaces.
To get an idea of the facilities an older pool offers I popped in to Warringah Aquatic Centre. They have ramp access to the indoor pool and a hoist to enable swimmers to access to the pool.
I have spoken about beach wheelchairs at length in the past (you can read more here) Before BJ had his own chair, our holiday destination was determined by the availability of a beach wheelchair. It is wonderful to go for a walk on the beach as a family and enjoy a dip in the water. Thankfully many beaches have the beach wheelchairs available for visitors to use for free. Here is a list of some of the locations thanks to the Disabled Surfers Association.
BJ can sit well so he enjoys sitting in a lake and lagoon. When he was little lakes provided easy swimming while one of us was supporting BJ. BJ also enjoyed sitting in an inflatable boat and being pulled through the water
4. AN INFLATABLE POOL IN THE BACKYARD
If, like us, you don’t have an in ground pool in the backyard, an inflatable pool may be a good way to keep cool in summer. When BJ was little we used his bath seat to give him support in the pool. When AJ came along a larger inflatable pool allowed enough room for the two of them which made it more fun for BJ. I’m always a big fan of multi-tasking so when BJ was little I’d give him an ‘outdoor bath’ before getting him out of the pool. A bit of soap and shampoo and he was done for the night. He always thought it was a bit of fun and it saved me time and meant the water had a dual purpose before being tipped out.
5. SLIP AND SLIDE
We had a dual lane slip and slide one year which was very popular with the kids. I have to say it ruined the grass and did cause some, “Mum, BJ’s on my side” type of cries but it was fun. BJ can bottom shuffle himself down and of course loved someone pulling him along.
6. WATER TROUGH
This water trough was an expensive gift but it has stood the test of time and proved great entertainment when friends have visited plus gone with us when we’ve visited family and friends. I love that kids all play together at one activity. In summer it is good for water play and in winter it can be used for sand or coloured rice play.
Add some water play toys in summer and it gives kids hours of fun.
7. WATER PARKS
We recently had a great day with our beach wheelchair at a water park but we haven’t always had the chair. In the past BJ has put his feet in the water, got his arms wet and walked with assistance through the water park in his swimmers. There is a chance that some kids with a canon will shoot you and you get soaked of course. My solution: put a large poncho or bag over the wheelchair then sit on top in swimmers. The wheelchair won’t get totally soaked but it may still get damp. Hopefully in hot weather it will dry quickly.
8. ICE RINK
If your local rink will allow wheelchairs on the ice there is probably no cooler place on a hot summer’s day. BJ has had some great visits to the ice rink and it proved a great social outing in school holidays with limbo sticks to go under and everyone high fiving him as he made his way around the rink.
9. MOVIES AND MUSEUMS
When all else fails, head to the movies to see the latest summer flicks. After Boxing Day there are usually a large number of new releases. Keep in mind that on hot days lots of parents resort to the movies so either arrive early or book tickets online. The wheelchair spaces often go quickly.
Museums and art galleries always have school holiday activities, shows and new exhibitions. Check the “what’s on” page on their website. Phone ahead and check if they have disabled parking on-site. Many do not advertise it but do have a couple of spots available.
OTHER WAYS TO STAY COOL WHEN TRAVELLING OR OUT AND ABOUT
BJ tends to overheat. His extra movement which is part of his Athetoid cerebral palsy, combined with his excitable personality, equals one hot bod.
Keeping him cool and well hydrated when we travel and day-to-day is a challenge.
- When booking accommodation we try to book places with air conditioning and ceiling fans. If there is no air conditioner in the bedroom we travel with a fan (when we are driving to our destination).
- We dress BJ in full cotton clothing. Avoid designs on the front of shirts if they are plasticised prints, they stop the fabric from breathing making it hotter to wear.
- He wears a wide brim hat.
- In the recent heat one of the staff at BJ’s day program had a hand-held fan with water spray gun. BJ loved it and it was another good way to keep him cool. I’ve now bought the same ($5 at Kmart but it does use batteries). For those 40 degree days this is perfect for a freshen up.
- If you are going somewhere that will mean you are standing in queues in the sun, an umbrella over the chair may work. Keep in mind that any wind usually makes an umbrella useless. We would never travel to somewhere like Disneyland or the theme parks in the heat of summer but if you were I’d definitely have something to keep the sun off a wheelchair user.
- We pack extra drinks and partly freeze the drinks to keep them cooler. Offer drinks at regular intervals.
Children should be supervised at all times around water, never leave a child with a plastic bag or poncho unsupervised. Contact your local pool or facility to ensure that access is provided to avoid disappointment.
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