Fewer than 30 days remain for aquatic facility operators to become compliant with provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding access to public pools and spas. Last May, the U.S. Department of Justice extended the deadline from March 15, 2012, to Jan. 31, 2013.
For pools less than 300 linear feet in size, the ADA Standard for Accessible Design calls for one means of access, which must be either an ADA-compliant lift or a sloped entry. Pools with greater than 300 linear feet of pool wall must also have a second means of access — either another lift or ramp, or a transfer wall, a transfer system or pool stairs. Estimates have placed the number of pools that need to be brought into compliance at approximately 100,000, thereby helping earn the provision the nickname "poolmageddon." A backlog of orders at lift-manufacturing facilities was said to have been a primary reason for multiple deadline extensions.
The APSP urges facility operators and owners of pools and spas that fall under the ADA requirements to prepare for this upcoming deadline. “The first step would be to work with a pool professional to provide a barrier removal analysis which is simply an audit of a facility to determine if the facility falls under ADA jurisdiction and what elements within the facility would need to be modified to provide access for people with disabilities,” says Jennifer Hatfield, APSP director of government relations. “In the case of a swimming pool, once a facility has been determined to be subject to ADA regulations, the pools should be identified as to the type and size to determine what type of access will be required.”
Hatfield noted that if under the barrier removal analysis it is determined that a facility does fall under the ADA, what follows is an implementation plan, beginning with a listing of all barrier removal issues and a determination if the required modifications are readily achievable. If it is not readily achievable to make the barrier removal modifications, the reason for this determination should be clearly presented as part of the plan. The selected means of access should be identified. If the means of access already exists, it should be noted that it conforms to the regulations. If the means of access needs to be ordered, this also should be noted, along with a timetable for issuing the order and expected installation date.
“The APSP has and continues to support the Accessibility Standards and the goal of ensuring access by persons with disabilities in order for them to utilize pools and spas,” Hatfield added. “We’ve been following this issue for years and have developed information to help members reach compliance.”
Local governing bodies have been busy approving the purchase of lifts in recent months, but not all pool operators appear to have made up their minds yet about whether to comply with the regulations. "Is it worth spending thousands of dollars to put Band-Aids on the pool in hopes that we’ll get another few months or another few years?” Merrill (Wis.) parks and recreation director Dan Wendorf asked the Wausau Daily Herald last month, referring to a the city's aging outdoor pool. “We’re using taxpayer dollars, and we have to use them wisely.” He added that the money required to make the old pool compliant might be better off put toward developing a new facility.
Last year, the DOJ issued a sheet of questions and answers that addresses some of the common areas of confusion regarding the regulation, and a five-page Technical Assistance Document outlining the reasons for the ADA regulations also explains which pools need to be made accessible and defines “readily achievable barrier removal.”
For even more information on complying, click here and here. In addition, the National Swimming Pool Foundation is hosting a webinar with John Caden that will address compliancy issues and your questions about the regulations.