Disability Sport NI has officially recognised Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for championing the needs of people with disabilities and fully embracing the inclusivity agenda in the design, construction and management of its flagship £36m South Lake Leisure Centre.
Opened in November 2020, the new state-of-the-art leisure centre in Craigavon has become one of the only sports facilities in NI to achieve the highest level of accreditation possible in the Inclusive Sports Facility (ISF) scheme.
First introduced in 2010, this scheme recognises excellence in the design of sports facilities which are inclusive of people with disabilities.
A council delegation recently gathered at South Lake Leisure Centre to mark this outstanding achievement and acknowledge the sterling work of McAdam Design and Farrans Construction who collaborated closely with Disability Sport NI’s Access Consultant to meet the rigorous design requirements needed to attain the prestigious accreditation.
They were also joined by senior representatives of Disability Sport NI, Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Sport NI and Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Sports Forum who were able to watch local disability sports clubs give demonstrations of inclusive activities such as wheelchair basketball, boccia, cycling, circuits and Tai Chi.
Delighted to be presented with a certificate of ISF accreditation for this landmark facility from Disability Sport NI Chairperson Paddy Marshall, Lord Mayor Councillor Paul Greenfield said: “South Lake Leisure Centre represents a major investment in the health and wellbeing of all people in this borough.
“In delivering our largest capital project, there was a collective will by all stakeholders to ensure it meets the highest accessibility standards and is inclusive and welcoming to all.
“This accreditation is a ringing endorsement that we have raised the bar in creating a centre of excellence where people with disabilities can increase their participation in sport and physical activity.
“Thanks to the highly skilled teams whose hard work and dedication helped create this jewel in the crown of inclusive leisure facilities. With its excellent facilities and unrivalled activity programme, it is already having a positive impact on addressing health inequalities in this borough.
“Going forward, we are committed to working closely with statutory partners and local groups to provide quality opportunities for people with disabilities, who are often under-represented in sport, to lead active and healthy lives.
“It is guaranteed to be a game changer in realising our vision of make this borough the most physically active in Northern Ireland by 2030, as outlined in our Get Moving ABC Framework.”
Acknowledging the scope of work involved in ensuring inclusivity was a design driver of this large-scale project from start to finish, Disability Sport NI Chief Executive Officer, Kevin O’Neill, added: “Disability Sport NI is delighted to award South Lake Leisure Centre the Excellence Level of our Inclusive Sports Facility Accreditation scheme. We would like to congratulate Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, McAdam Design, Farrans Construction and our Access Consultant for working together to create one of the most inclusive sports facilities not only here in Northern Ireland but throughout the UK and Ireland.
“Statistics show that people with disabilities in Northern Ireland are still almost half as likely to regularly participate in sport and recreation as non-disabled people. Therefore, we would like to thank the council and everyone involved in the project for pro-actively tackling the under representation of disabled people in sport and recreation and designing a sports facility that meets the optimum levels of good practice for access and sporting needs of disabled people.”
Disability Sport NI also presented a special award to McAdam Design in recognition of their work supporting South Lake Leisure Centre to achieve ISF Accreditation.
Since the centre opened, council staff have worked closely with Disability Sport NI to build on the success of two well-established programmes, Inclusive Sport and Leisure and Get Out, Get Active, and to expand the range of inclusive indoor and outdoor activities delivered as part of these programmes: Craigavon Boccia Club; Wheelie Active Club; Inclusive Gym; South Lake Disability Sports Clubs; Nordic Walking and Inclusive Cycling.
In addition, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust are taking advantage of the excellent facilities at the centre to deliver popular activities for people with disabilities such as Fit 4 U and Fit 4 U 2. The children attending the All Stars Disability Summer Scheme also enjoyed swimming and water sports activities.
Earlier this year, the council launched the Carer Pass scheme in partnership with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, enabling primary carers of an adult with a learning disability within the borough to avail of reduced rate membership at any council leisure facility.
By awarding the contract to operate an onsite café to social enterprise Café IncredABLE, the council continues to increase opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autism to gain valuable skills in catering whilst also providing them with meaningful social, recreational, and educational opportunities.
Children attending special schools and Learning Support Units can also take part in competitions hosted at the centre in activities such as New Age Kurling, boccia and sports hall athletics.
The centre is also home to a growing number of disability sports groups including the Craigavon Lakers Wheelchair Basketball Club, Ripples Special Olympics Swimming Club and ABC Autism Group.