Cedar Rapids pools allow life jackets for those with a disability

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 9:44 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - People with a disability can wear a life jacket at a city pool.

The city’s website said life jackets and other floatation devices, like water wings, are not allowed in city pools. But, a spokesperson for the city said it does allow life jackets at city pools for individuals with disabilities.

Gail Loskill, who is a communications coordinator for the city’s parks and recreation department, said the city asks for a written request based on the disability or a phone call to an aquatics supervisor. She said the life jacket must be approved by the Coast Guard in an email.

“We have already accommodated several children with autism this year,” Loskill said. ‘We ask the parent to agree to provide a clean, Coast Guard-approved life jacket and follow our procedures regarding staying within an arm’s reach of their child.”

Alison Limbert, who has a son with autism, said that policy wasn’t explained to her when lifeguards wouldn’t let her son swim in a city pool with a life jacket. She said he needs the life jacket to swim and felt like the policy was exclusionary.

”It just felt very exclusive,” Limbert said. “If your child can swim or if your child is normal functioning they could be in the pool and in the water. But, if they need any type of accommodation, we really don’t want them here.”

Not every city in Iowa has pools, and those that do have varying policies about floatation devices. Some cities with pools allow people to wear life jackets in their facility with some caveats. The city of Iowa City’s pool rules only allow swimmers with life jackets in the shallow areas of a pool. The city of Dubuque has a similar policy, but also requires supervision. The city of Cedar Falls doesn’t let people wearing a life jacket use waterslides or diving boards in its aquatic center rules.

Similar to the city of Cedar Rapids, some cities don’t allow water wings and other similar flotation devices.

Loskill said, in an emailed statement, that Cedar Rapids doesn’t allow flotation devices because parents are less likely to follow supervision policies when children are wearing such equipment.

“We do not allow floatation devices for the general public because our experience in operating pools has shown that children using water wings or floatation devices have a false sense of water safety,” Loskill said. “Parents are less likely to follow our supervision policies when their children are wearing floatation devices. Children in life jackets can float away from their parents, into deeper water, putting them at risk.”

Angie Cole, who is a recreation superintendent, said it does take special requests on a case-by-case basis and people can contact the pool manager, if needed.

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