Ensure Your Pool Is ADA-Compliant
On March 15, 2011, the new 2010 ADA standards, formally known as Revisions to Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act—took effect. Among other things, the new standards require that recreational facilities be accessible to disabled users. Compliance is required by March 15, 2012, and all new construction must conform to the standards.
Among other facility types, swimming pools, wading pools and spas are included in the new standards. This means aquatic facility managers need to be aware of the requirements, and ready to make changes to meet the needs of their disabled patrons.
Q: We have heard that there are new accessibility requirements for swimming pools. What do we need to do to improve access at our facility?
A: Providing access to pools has been a top concern for aquatic facilities for some time, and the new law simply reinforces the importance of providing a way for disabled patrons to get into and out of the water.
The requirements state that pools with more than 300 linear feet of wall need to include at least two means of access. One of those must be either a lift or a sloped entry. If your pool is less than 300 linear feet, you need only one means of access, but it must be a lift or sloped entry. This means that if you operate a commercial pool, you're going to need a sloped entry or a pool lift.
Q: We want to make sure our pool is accessible. What's the quickest and easiest option?
A: A pool lift will be the simplest way to comply with the new ADA requirements. Pool lift systems are relatively inexpensive to install, and require very little space.
You can find a wide range of pool lifts available that will enable patrons of every ability to get into and out of the water. Talk to manufacturers to find a pool lift that will meet both your needs and your budget.
While you can find both battery-powered and water-powered lifts, a battery-operated pool lift is both more reliable and less expensive to install than a typical water-powered unit.
Q: What else should we look for in a pool lift?
A: Check out the lift and be sure the controls are easy to operate. You also want to be sure it has enough lifting capacity to meet your patrons' needs. You can find lifts with a capacity of up to 500 pounds.
Look for features that cater to patrons' comfort, such as arm rests and comfortable seats. Many features also boost safety, such as an adjustable lap belt.
Depending on your swimming pool, you might also want to look into a lift that can swivel 360 degrees, providing access at any point in a continuous circle around the unit.
Q: What else should we know?
A: You might be surprised to learn that 54.4 million Americans reported some level of disability in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 35 million severely disabled. Some 3.3 million people over the age of 15 use a wheelchair, and 10.2 million use a cane, crutches or walker.
When you expand access to your swimming pool for this population, you are not only complying with the law, you are doing the right thing. On top of this, you're reaching out to potential new customers, members and patrons who might never have considered using your facilities before.