**The ADA does not affect pools at private residences, apartment complexes, or homeowner’s associations. However, proprietors of condominiums or residential apartment complexes who sell private memberships to on-site pool facilities are considered to be providing a public accommodation and would thereby be required to maintain compliance with the new standards.
Get excited—the revised swimming pool guidelines described in the Americans with Disabilities Act have officially become lex terrae! This article covers basic compliance with the new accessibility standards set forth in the ADA regarding title II and title III entities. The information here is not meant to be exhaustive, so if you need more in-depth knowledge it would be a great idea to head here for some light legalese.
Provisions regarding newly constructed or altered pools officially went into effect on 15 March, 2012. Provisions regarding existing pools are set to go into effect by 31 January, 2013, which means all pools existing prior to 15 March, 2012 must meet the minimum accessibility and barrier removal requirements by months end. Compliance with the new guidelines is a hugely important responsibility, because it will assure individuals with disabilities the freedom to participate in the same recreational activities at the same facilities, and with the same level of relative ease and independence as everybody else, which is awesome. Now that we’ve got that straight, let’s dive in!
Title II and Program Accessibility
Title II of the ADA covers public entities, and it prevents circumscription of a disabled individual’s participation in state and local government programs, services, and activities due to inaccessibility. Public services are required to adhere to and maintain “program accessibility.” Basically, program accessibility means that all public swimming facilities must make accessible pool features (e.g. pool lifts) available at all times when those facilities are open to the public. Sharing accessible equipment between pools is prohibited, so each pool is required to arrange their own unless it would present an “undue burden” to do so. You can find more information on title II requirements here.
Title III and Barrier Removal
Title III applies to places of public accommodation (i.e. businesses). Places like hotels and resorts, gyms and spas—anywhere there’s a privately operated pool that’s open to the public. The new guidelines require that all physical barriers in existing pools be removed where it is readily achievable to do so. Typically, removing physical barriers will involve installation of an ADA compliant pool lift capable of being independently operated by the user. In some cases businesses may choose to install portable lifts provided they comply with the new standards. However, in general, lifts installed after 15 March, 2012 should be fixed. Of course, businesses are expected to make continuing efforts to improve accessibility over time.
Requirements by Pool Type as Described by ADA Regulation
There are two types of standard swimming pools in wide use as outlined by ADA regulation: large pools, which have 300 linear feet or more of pool wall; and small pools, which have under 300 linear feet of pool wall. The U.S. Department of Justice ADA overview states that:
[l]arge pools must have two accessible means of entry, with at least one being a pool lift or slopped entry; smaller pools are only required to have one accessible means of entry, provided that it is either a pool lift or a sloped entry. (ADA, 2012)
The rules regarding standard swimming pools are unambiguous—if your pool is large you must have at least one pool lift as your accessible means of entry; smaller pools may have either a sloped entry or a 2010 compliant lift. However, for certain types of recreational pools there are exceptions. Wave pools, lazy rivers, and sandy bottom pools “where user access is limited to one area” are not expected to provide more than one accessible means of entry given that entry point is a pool lift in full compliance with the requirements of the 2010 standards. Additionally, wading pools are required to provide at least one sloped entry in accordance with article 242.3 of the ADA.
Spas have their own set of accessibility requirements. Only one accessible means of entry need be provided as long as it is a fully compliant pool lift (recommended), transfer wall, or transfer system. When spas are arranged in clusters at least one spa in each cluster must maintain accessibility equipment in compliance with the new requirements. For more information on pool and spa accessibility requirements check out article 242 of the 2010 ADA Standards.
ADA Fixed Lift Requirements
Fixed lifts must meet these important standards to be considered ADA compliant:
- Seats must be a minimum of 16” wide.
- Seat surfaces must be 16”-19” from the deck surface.
- Footrests must move with the seat.
- Armrests are optional, but the armrest nearest the water must fold clear of the seat.
- User controls must provide unassisted user operation from both the deck and the water.
- Seat surfaces must submerge at least 18” below the water level when fully lowered.
- Must be able to lift at least 300 lbs.
It’s also important to remember that “clear deck space” is key—all lifts must meet strict clear deck space requirements upon installation in order to be considered ADA compliant. Here’s what the law states:
On the side of the seat opposite the water, a clear deck space shall be provided parallel with the seat. The space shall be 36 inches (915 mm) wide minimum and shall extend forward 48 inches (1220 mm) minimum from a line located 12 inches (305 mm) behind the rear edge of the seat. The clear deck space shall have a slope not steeper than 1:48. (ADA, 2012, 1009.2.3 Clear Deck Space)
There you have it folks, those are the basics of the 2010 ADA revisions. If you have more technical questions or general concerns I haven’t addressed, contact the toll-free Department of Justice ADA information line at 800-514-0301. You can also request free ADA materials, or information about filing complaints. You’ll find more helpful information on ADA compliant lifts here. Now I need a nap!