Raritan Valley YMCA

Initiative: Inclusive swimming and water safety programs

Grant years: 2023–24


The Raritan Valley YMCA aims to address health disparities within the disabled community through environmental and systemic organizational change, creating a fully accessible aquatic facility, appropriate programming, and comprehensive staff training, with the goal of teaching swimming and water safety to ethnically, racially, and ability-diverse learners. YMCAs are national leaders in aquatics programming, yet there is a lack of awareness, accommodating classes, and certified instructors to teach the national training course: Swim Instructor Teaching Techniques for Disability and Diversity of Ability.

To tackle this problem, we will research and gather input to design an outdoor instructional pool facility with water and play features that accommodates people with disabilities, including but not limited to those with physical disabilities, limited mobility, developmental disabilities, and emotional and mental disabilities. We will include the disabled community and their caregivers through focus groups, interviews, and leadership roles. Similarly, we will engage in a comprehensive staff training program with our partners, Raritan Bay Area YMCA, the State YMCA Alliance, and National YMCA.

Kids swimming in pool
Swim class for adults with disabilities at Raritan Valley YMCA

Together we will remove bias and misconceptions to produce effective programs and facilities. Using policy, systems, and environmental change methods, our work will become long-lasting and a true model for other organizations to implement their own inclusive swim programs.