Supplement Feature - February 2012
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Roll With the Changes

What Aquatic Facility Managers Need to Know About ADA, VGB and More

By Rick Dandes


Caden suggested putting together a written implementation plan, in which you note everything that has to be accomplished. Keep the document on site, he said.

Examples of what might be in a plan include: if your facility has a wading pool with a flat bottom, ADA regulations say you need a sloped entrance that extends to the deepest part of the pool. But what if making those improvements would cost in excess of $50,000? Considering your budget, that improvement might not be "readily achievable," period. Make note of that fact.

Meanwhile, if you have a pool less than 300 meters in length, you need to have one means of access. Document that you will purchase a swimming pool lift. And so on.

For more information about ADA guidelines, Randy Mendioroz, president, Aquatic Design Group, Carlsbad, Calif., suggested going online to the U.S. Access Board Web site, www.access-board.gov. There, he said, "you'll find a section that talks about guidelines and standards, and there is also an ADA standards page as well to click to. Absolutely the best way to comply is by knowing the updated law."

Benefits of the New Regulations

ADA regulations benefit more than the disabled population, estimated at about 50 million people in the United States. Add senior citizens into the mix, and you're probably addressing 30 percent of the U.S. population that requires some kind of mobility assistance, including getting in and out of a swimming pool.

By making a pool accessible, Mendioroz said, you open it up to a population that currently isn't served by that pool. "Understand, that's a good percentage of your tax-paying public if you're a parks and recreation department," Caden said. "These folks are being deprived of using that pool simply because they can't get in.

"If you are a hotel or a health club," he continued, "you can expand your market size considerably by making the pool accessible. In those kinds of situations you can also offer some additional programming that complements the accessibility. An example of that would be to expand your competitive swimming programs to include Special Olympics athletes and also Para-Olympic athletes."

Another group of users who could benefit from the new ADA regulations are veterans returning from the Middle East who are injured and may need more robust programs to recover.

"We just recently completed a job for the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton," Mendioroz said, "and it's called the Wounded Warrior facility."

What Mendioroz's team created were some specialty pools designed specifically for rehabilitation. An alarming number of soldiers come back from Iraq or Afghanistan with injuries, and the military has learned that you can cut their rehab time almost in half when they are rehabbing in water as opposed to rehabbing on dry land.

"We designed a facility that incorporates a therapy pool with a moveable floor system, so the floor of the pool goes all the way up to the pool deck," he said. "Users don't have to step down or go down any ladders. You can basically walk right out on the platform, or roll your wheelchair out onto the platform, and the floor lowers, like an elevator. Besides that, the floor also turns into a treadmill, and there are underwater cameras. It's cool stuff, but it's not cheap. The floor itself costs about $250,000. But it's effective in terms of being able to rehab these folks after an injury."