On March 31th, I wrote this blog post of my opinion on the debate over the change room design of the Queen E. pool. At the suggestion of Lynda Steele, I sent my comments on to Mayor Mandel. While I was on vacation this week, the Mayor was gracious enough to reply to me. I feel it appropriate to publish his response here:
Mr. Hardeman - Thank you for your email of March 31, 2009 regarding the design of the Queen Elizabeth Outdoor Pool. I appreciate you taking the time to share your comments and perspective about the safety and security of the facility. You make some interesting points for City administration to consider.
It is important to note however, that although the universal access change room is similar to a family change room, it only allows people to change in private cubicles. There is no common area for people to change in the open. Cubicles vary in size to accommodate individual users, families and wheelchairs. Washrooms remain segregated and showers are outside on the pool deck.
As you know, family/disabled change rooms are common in all new facilities, and one of the most common requests by patrons regarding existing facilities is to build larger family/disabled change rooms.
As well as improving accessibility for families and the disabled, the universal change room design is less expensive than segregated change rooms. Families can enter the change room together, which gives parents greater control over the safety and security of their children.
The universal change room was included in the design shared at the open house on March 3, 2009 and with the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Pool. Friends of QE Pool shared their concerns about safety within the change room design with City administration on March 27, 2009 and these concerns are now being reviewed. However, ultimately Council must decide on behalf of all citizens, not just one group.
Thank you again for expressing your concerns.
As you can see, the Mayor clearly supports the notion of the universal change room. However, his message to me boils down to a “I appreciate your comments, but here’s why you’re wrong” message. He makes some points that are not disputable however. I cannot dispute the cost would be less. Building one change room is without a doubt cheaper than my personally favored scenario of three. Segregated washrooms does take away from some of the issues.
He mentions that people are only allowed to change in private cubicles in the universal change room, unlike a family change room. This is interesting, because at my facility, with our family change room, people are not allowed to change in the common area either. And I also believe it shows naivety on the Mayor’s part. People aren’t allowed to drive over the speed limit either, but it happens all the time. Telling someone they are not allowed to do something does not mean it will not happen.
I have spoken to people of all walks of life over this issue. Teenagers, teachers, parents, Young adults, senior citizens. While I have not done formal polling, I can say overwhelmingly that the response has been against this. Many parents have said they simply would not take their children to such a facility. Teenagers do not like it, Many young adults do not like it, although some don’t care either way. I have also not spoken to a single person who works in a pool who thinks this is a good idea. Not one. Not a single one. I believe this comes back to the problem of the people designing the space have never worked in a similar space, and done very little consulting with people who do. So a question I have, is that if so many people are against this, why build something that people won’t go to?
At the end, all of this may be for nothing. Through a contact it has been confirmed to me that any design must first get the approval from the Police commission before it can be built. I would hope that the police commission will see the potential for problems with this design, and stop it from happening. We at our pool work with the police on a regular basis and the police know the types of problems we deal with. I’m not sure the police would want such an albatross on their backs with this design. As I have said before, all it would take is one person to completely destroy any advantages that that design would have.
I will be replying to Mayor Mandel personally on this issue early next week. I would appreciate any feedback from anyone who reads this article before I do. Please leave a comment, or contact me via twitter or email, you can find my contact information on the contact page of this website.