20 June 2021

From one of the campaign team, Helena Williams Bowie, on the topic of the Oasis and inclusivity.

The Oasis and Inclusivity - Helena and another protestor

Back in 1972 when Swindon’s elders conceived the Oasis, the town had a population around half of what it is today. They knew back then the town’s population could and would have a rapid increase. And indeed, the expansion of Swindon continues almost 50 years on. Back then the administration in charge had a bold vision. Now we’re lacking facilities with double the population.

Sports in Swindon, during the Oasis’ planning period, were below national standards. A document in the archives proves resistance to a standard pool.

A letter from the British sub aqua club during planning stages shows that the oasis may never have happened. I’ll quote a line I think is important. ‘Not only will our organisation suffer but many young people, some disabled will suffer deprivation.’

That was then – and this is now

That was 1972. Yet here we are in 2021, in the same situation if not worse. For a high proportion of disabled people the Oasis is the only facility to accommodate their needs. Whether it’s swimming other sports or even events.

The Oasis then came along with inclusion in mind. It had a pool for fun and to encourage more women to take part in sports. Whether alone, with children or as part of the family.

It also encouraged use of the centre for weddings, the Eid Festival and more. The hall is large enough to hold ability /disability sports such as basketball, and Rugbyerc if requested.

On the beach

The beach-style fun pool was groundbreaking in design when it opened a full 34 years before the equality act 2010 became law.

This pool is the only one with total accessibility in Swindon and in a 50 miles radius with its specialist aquatic wheelchair. This means the world to those who use it.

It’s an extention of themselves, giving a feeling freedom and joy and not humiliation. They can exercise on their own terms and join in with family swims. For some autistic people feeling the waves in the wheelchair will be their only experience of the waves as many beaches don’t have the facilities.

Those a little more mobile find the beach style easier to enter if they can’t manage steps due arthritic joints, sports injury, hand eye co ordination , milder motor skills even dyspraxia. And with no hoist to face they avoid the humiliation and indignity of people watching them. Such things can take a toll on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.

For the autistic

The Oasis is popular with many families of autistic children sometimes for the gentle slope or baby pool to help with water sensitivity. Smells are important here too. The dome provides a feeling of space even when busy to prevent an overwhelming feeling for both touch or sound. The wave machine is very calming for many. Who can remember seeing a face light up when first feeling the waves? I do.

The Oasis swimming pool was chosen for local school children with disabilities for their swimming lessons. The closure means they may not be able to meet the government education criteria by age 11. It also may put their lives at risk due to needing specific facilities.

Many different disability groups used the Oasis. Whether for the specific changing bench and hoist, the quietness of the pool or to meet friends with the same condition, for coffee and chat with mum and baby group. All these groups miss the Oasis and had no notice of it going. Nor has anyone offered them anywhere else. Non of the other leisure centres offer a like-for-like service in these aspects.

On the outside

The outside is more challenging to enter. Although planning didn’t consider disabled needs like now. Irrespective of the lsiting, we must do more to make access to the building via the front better for less mobile and wheelchair users. I have seen properties near my home with lift to the front door where the path and garden are at a sharp angle.

The Oasis was designed to accommodate changes.. Listing applications may take this into account such as laws and fire safety regs so it maybe possible.

Back in March, David Renard promised me a survey of all disability sports facilities available. So I plan hold him to this.

Please watch March Leaders in lock down video for precise wording. It’s all on the Save Oasis Swindon Facebook page
and also below:

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