A disabled wheelchair user who was ordered out of Horsham’s outdoor swimming pool has spoken out about his public ‘humiliation.’
Portuguese-born Pedro Lema was visiting the pool at The Pavilions in Horsham Park on a rare day out with his wife and two children on Thursday when the incident happened.
Pedro, 47, who suffers from functional neurological disorder and needs to use a wheelchair to get around, says he checked at the Pavilions’ reception if it would be OK for him to watch as his wife and children swam in the pool and was told it would be fine.
But as he watched in his wheelchair at the outdoor poolside, he was told he had to leave. He said a duty manager told him: “You can’t sit here.”
Said Pedro: “He said it in front of everyone and told me I had to leave. It was not dignified. I felt it was abuse. It was the worst day of my life.”
As he went outside, he said the manager offered to refund him his entry money. “I said I don’t want my money back. I want my dignity back. I don’t want something like this to happen to anyone else.”
Pedro, who lives in Crawley and worked as a supervisor for a catering company before becoming ill in December, added: “I have been in this country for nine years and I have never been treated like this before.”
He said there were no signs anywhere stating that viewing was not allowed in the outdoor pool area.
A spokesman for Horsham District Council, which operates the Pavilions, said: “The council apologises if the actions taken by staff members of Place Leisure – the Pavilions in the Park operators who are under contract to the council – caused upset to the customer in question.
“After carrying out a full investigation into the situation it has been found that the customer was viewing the outdoor pool from an area which is not open to the public and is a non-viewing staff only area which is used as an evacuation route should there be an emergency.
“Viewing of the pools at the Pavilions can be done via a number of different vantage points which are safe to be open to the public.
“On this particular occasion the customer had accessed an area which is not open to the public and therefore for health and safety reasons was asked to move.
“Going forward it has been decided to review internal signage of the area in question with the aim of making it clearer for customers.”