United Response’s ‘In the Swim Midlands’ event went ‘swimmingly’, providing a experience like no other for people we support with learning and physical disabilities. 

Imagine not being able to talk with the added difficulty of not being able to swim because of a physical disability. Now imagine having get from one side of the pool to the other without the powers of communication. This is the challenge faced by some of the people we support who took on our swimathon event, In the Swim Midlands and makes the achievements of those who took part all the more impressive.

The event took place on 31st August in the only sensory pool in the country at Victoria Park Leisure Centre in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. The sensory swimming pool, through its multi-coloured lights and sounds and warm water created a stimulating experience particularly for those with complex learning disabilities who are non-verbal.

Fifteen people we support took part, ranging from those with moderate learning disabilities to those who are physically disabled and have complex learning disabilities. The event lasted an hour and a half, with people participating in a range of different ways from those with physical disabilities who bravely walked their distance in the pool to some of those who were able-bodied who took part in a swimming distance challenge in the adjacent regular pool. Participants also fundraised for the event as well to raise money for their local projects. One lady, Rebecca Pearson, who we support in Nottingham completed a phenomenal 42 lengths.

Lynda Burchnell-Stapleton, who works for United Response in Derbyshire, organised and hosted the event and said it was ‘lovely to see everyone enjoying themselves’ and described the experiences of two people we support on the day:

“Andrew, a young man we support has a learning disability and often becomes anxious when entering the water at swimming pools and was only planning on staying in the water for 10 minutes but was enjoying himself so much he ended up staying in for 45 minutes.”

“Another gentlemen we support called Robert really didn't want to go into the water, despite having swum with dolphins before, but was convinced when we said he could use the fantastic hydraulic chair to allow him access into the water, which really put him at ease. Once he was in the water, he really enjoyed himself.”

“The staff put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that everyone had a good time and it really helped to enhance their relationships with the people they support.”

Lynda was very positive about the experience and said that there will be another In the Swim Midlands event next year.

Mark Schueler, fundraising officer

If you’re interested in taking on a challenge to raise much-needed funds for United Response’s work supporting people with disabilities and mental health needs to take control of their lives, you’ll find opportunities ranging from skydiving to the London Marathon, and from climbing Kilimanjaro to cycling from London to Paris – all in the event section on our website.