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How the pool industry came together to help a special woman

Determining design details

Everything about this pool’s unique design was done in close consultation with Tyhme, taking into consideration both her present requirements and future development. The pool was designed for her to accommodate a full range of therapy and exercises. PSSS staff worked closely with Tyhme to refine the project’s various design details. Depths, slopes, circulation system, point of entry, access to pump and heater controls, even chemical and maintenance requirements—everything was designed to allow Tyhme to use and look after the pool herself and maintain her much sought-after independence.

Shape and permits

After the initial site inspection, a few issues had to be addressed with the building department. Besides the usual property line setbacks, there is a small manmade canal along the back of the yard. Before work could begin, the department needed to determine whether setbacks from waterlines would be an issue. This is where it is helpful to have good relationships with building departments.

An application was drawn for a permit to build a ‘therapy pool,’ rather than a swimming pool. The property lines and the need to design the pool with three incremental depths dictated the pool’s unusual shape. The rear yard setback became a non-issue and a permit was granted for the desired location.

Entry and access

To enter the pool, Tyhme backs her wheelchair to the side of the steps, locks the brakes, then transfers herself to the tiled area.

The initial challenge was to create an entry Tyhme could enter, exit and use entirely on her own. She determined the elevation that worked best for a transfer from her wheelchair and the space that would be required to accommodate her. Her wheelchair needed to be 457 mm (18 in.) lower than the top of the steps. A ramp was incorporated into the plans to allow Tyhme to travel by wheelchair from the pool deck to the lower step area. It was also determined that a triangular, or wedge-shaped, deck seat at one side of the steps would be the best option for entry and exit.

It was also critical that this area be very smooth, without being slippery. When the ‘ledge’ portion of the deck by the steps was poured, a recessed area allowed for tile to be inlaid later. As Tyhme has no feeling below her chest, it was also essential there be nothing that could cut or scratch her. A step unit with three 1.2-m (4-ft) wide treads worked best, as they would allow Tyhme to reach each side of the steps to help herself in and out of the water. A handrail was discussed, but dismissed as it would be in the way.

To enter the pool, Tyhme backs her wheelchair to the side of the steps, locks the brakes, then transfers herself to the tiled area. Once seated on the pool deck beside the steps, she can lift her legs around and onto the step treads. Then, step by step, she shuffles (or ‘bums,’ as she calls it) her way down into the pool.


When using the pool, Tyhme pulls herself towards the walls, which allows her knees to lock so she can put weight on her legs to exercise.

The pool entry depth is 1 m (3 ft) with two very gradual slopes—the first to 1.2 m (4 ft) and the second to 1.5 m (5 ft). At the 1.2-m depth, Tyhme can pull herself towards the pool’s walls, where her knees touch the wall and straighten her legs. She refers to this as ‘locking her knees.’ She can then put weight on her legs and exercise.

Tackling construction

In shaping the pool floor, considerations were taken to account for ground conditions through the use of crushed stone, reinforcing and additional concrete thickness.

In this area of Severn Township, excavation revealed clay and swamp-like ‘bog.’ Having built numerous times under these conditions, designers opted for the proven process of creating a solid load-spreading concrete base for the pool, with a great deal of concrete, reinforced with steel mesh and rebar. Normal construction procedures followed, including setting up steel walls and pouring the base into concrete, but using 50 per cent more concrete than usual, as the base ground conditions were less than ideal. The pool floor was then shaped; again, considerations were taken to account for ground conditions through the use of crushed stone, reinforcing, and additional concrete thickness.

Construction began the first week of June and was 80 per cent finished by the end of the month. The team wanted Tyhme to see the pool full of water before she left for another rehabilitation stint in California in July.

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