Feature Article - January 2011
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Are You Accessible?

Tips From the Pros on Compliance With New ADA Standards

By Margaret Ahrweiler

Pool Accessibility

When it comes to the laundry list of areas covered under the new rules, providing access to pools has topped the list of concerns for many facilities. Pools with more than 300 linear feet of wall must include two means of access, one of which must be a lift or a sloped entry. Pools less than 300 linear feet only need one means of access—but it must be a lift or sloped entry. Practically speaking, this means any commercial pool in the country—270,000 by some estimates, said Caden—needs a lift or a sloped entry.

Fortunately, this area can provide the easiest fix, and, despite grumbling over costs, shouldn't force closure of even the smallest facilities. Pool lift systems have been available for years. Smaller lifts cost as little as $4,000 to install, Caden said. Ramps, on the other hand, require more space, along with an architect and contractor, and can cost $20,000 to $30,000.

Some confusion still exists about wading pools and zero-depth entry pools with the 2010 guidelines, Caden added. The guidelines require a 1 to 12 ratio slope for graded entries, while many commercial zero-depth pools, including those in Florida, use a 1 to 10 grade. It's also unclear where and when railings must be installed.

Many districts, including the Wheaton Park District, are avoiding that quandary altogether by installing lifts at the deep end of the zero-depth pools.

Districts with multiple facilities also can apply a program accessibility test to ensure that aquatics programs are accessible, without having to upgrade every facility, said Mike Benard, Wheaton's executive director. Wheaton Park District operates two aquatic facilities, Rice Pool & Water Park and Northside Family Aquatic Center. Rice, built in 1989, features a zero-depth entry, while Northside, built in 1958 and renovated in 1995, features a more traditional design of an L-shaped pool with lap lanes and a diving well. The district offers lessons and other programming at both sites, but offers full accessibility for that programming only at Rice, Benard said. They chose to make Rice fully accessible because it is larger, with up to 200,000 visitors each summer compared with Northside's peak of 80,000, he said.

Not every section of an aquatic facility must be accessible, either. Existing waterslides do not have to meet ADA requirements, York noted, but said that new construction should have accessibility built into the design.