Design, Develop, Deliver: The 3D Method for Inclusive Water Programs

Article written by Sue M. Nelson, Total Aquatic Programming and Aquatic Programming Specialist

Achieving diversification in water programs is essential in fostering inclusion. The call for comprehensive programming considers all demographics, targeted to service everyone, irrespective of race, ability, gender, or sexuality. To achieve this, we present the 3D method for inclusive water programs – Design, Develop, Deliver.

Inclusion, in this instance, is the strategic habit of accommodating and integrating all those people who’ve historically been sidelined because of their ability, sexuality, race, gender.

When you aim your sights to design, develop, and deliver inclusive water programs, several considerations come to play:

DESIGN – Building the Blueprint

During the design stage, identifying the target audience is vital. Are you at ease teaching individuals – children or adults, with or without challenges? Understanding this helps in fostering an impactful program.

Temperature is essential to the participants’ comfort, varying based on different populations. You can glean the AEA guidelines for more insight here.

Easy access is underlined by the state codes that stipulate the access types to provide. For state regulations, check out the MAHC guide here.

Your program’s depth depends on whether you will offer a horizontal or a vertical plane of exercise or a mix of the two. The ideal depth is 4’6” for water exercises. It’s worth noting that kids and some adults would require shallow water, which could necessitate a tot-dock.

DEVELOP with diligence!

A thorough training program is the structural backbone of a successful workplace. It serves as a catalyst for employee skills enhancement and development. This program raises standards, aids in quality assurance, solidifies best business practices, increases productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

Knowledge of the audience you are dealing with is essential. That’s why you need to understand what safety measures are necessary and how best to manage their fitness levels.

Finally, creativity is the lifeblood that drives the evolution of program planning. This encourages diversity and inclusivity among all participating demographics.

DELIVER – Plan Execution: Deliver with Distinction

Horizontal Water Programming

These programs form the foundation of aquatic centers, offering swimming lessons for different ages – infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, school-goers, teens, and adults. Aquatic Centers could either deliver national swim curriculums or innovate their tailored versions.

Vertical Water Programming

These are for individuals who feel more comfortable learning to walk in water before swimming. It’s also an avenue for retaining members who might have had enough of swimming lessons.

Slating an example of diversification, maintaining fitness levels through vertical water programs allows people to feel safer in water even as they advance through life’s stages.

Communicate with Compassion: Initiate Inclusion

Your choice of language, both internally for staff and externally for marketing water programs, matters tremendously. It’s vital to express what the program aims and achieves, removing any opportunity for assumption or ambiguity about the program’s effectiveness and outcomes.

Let’s consider a sample inclusive program:

Program Name:

Program Name S.A.F.E. (Swim & Fitness Exercise) this type of program could be implemented under the Learn to Swim or Fitness category
Staff requirements LTS instructor / water exercise coach could be one person who has the requirements or LTS instructor and water exercise coach could work together
Clients served Can be develop for all ages & abilities
Pool needs Water Temp – 84 to 89 degrees Classroom & water components
Pool Access – Pool stairs or ramp
Water depth – 42” to 48”
Schedule Monthly fee Perpetual


To introduce individuals of all ages to water and fitness exercises.


Educating and empowering individuals with the help of well-trained staff.


  • To make individuals of all ages feel comfortable and safer in water, building endurance and muscle strength to acquire most swimming skills.
  • Engage the individuals interactively, teaching them to swim and offering water exercise in a vertical format or through water games.
  • Assist the individual to maintain their fitness levels, enabling a healthier lifestyle on land.

In Conclusion

By offering diversification in water programming and initiating inclusion, communities can be healthier, safer and fitter. A vital step toward achieving this lies in the Design, Develop, Deliver methodology outlined above. This isn’t just a strategy — it’s a commitment to fostering inclusion in water programs and revolutionizing aquatic fitness strategies.





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