|Image courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik|
For people with disabilities, the ability to enjoy services and activities everyday people use is extremely important. When it comes to pools, the water provides lots of fun or a means of rehabilitation through physical therapy and exercise.
While long ago there were not strict guidelines for pool and spa accessibility, since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law a lot of changes have been made. Pools found at health clubs, hotels, public waterparks, and more will be required to have lifts that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
Below is a timeline of events that relate to such regulations:
- July 26, 1990 – Americans with Disabilities Act is signed into law by George H. W. Bush
- July 23, 2004 – Department of Justice issues guidelines and accessibility standards for pools and spas
- July 23, 2010 – Department of Justice announces revised regulations and final rule making for Title II (public industry) and Title III (private industry) in relation to pool and spa accessibility.
- September 15, 2010 – Pool and spa accessibility guidelines published in Federal Register
- March 15, 2011 – Rules took effect
- March 15, 2012 – Deadline for pool lift compliance, but eventually postponed
- September 17, 2012 – Second deadline for pool lift compliance, also postponed
- January 31, 2013 – Final deadline for pool lift compliance
Because of prevalent misunderstandings about the pool and spa lift regulations, this May the Department of Justice extended the compliance deadline to January 31, 2013. Pools with 300 or more linear feet of pool wall must have two accessible means of entry. Pools with less than 300 linear feet of pool wall must have one accessible point of entry. Such entry methods could include ADA compliant pool lifts and ramps. There are other requirements that must be met including those pertaining to the lift location and size of seat.
Although a number of people believed portable lifts were in compliance with the regulations, portable lifts do not comply with the regulations. Lifts must be built in or in a fixed place.
There are ways facilities can be excluded from complying with the pool lift regulations, but it is very difficult given the different pool lift cost options. They do not have to comply if purchasing a pool lift would cause financial hardship or if pool lifts and accommodations were not readily available. If cost is an issue, smaller employers may be eligible for a special tax credit to help offset costs to comply. In addition, a pool lift dealeris not hard to find.
Overall, the ADA pool lift regulations ensure disabled individuals get the same swimming opportunities able-bodied people do. They should be able to enjoy the water without having to worry about how to get in or out.