After a six-year wait, the Americans with Disabilities
Act swimming pool guidelines have become the law of the
land. Aquatics facilities now have 18 months to comply with
the new law or seek an unlikely exclusion.
In a July ceremony marking the 20th Anniversary of the
Americans with Disabilities Act, President Obama announced
that the U.S. Department of Justice has issued final
regulations revising sections of the ADA.
The final regulations include revisions to Title II
(pertaining to the more than 80,000 states and local
governments, public entities and public transportation) and
Title III (which covers the more than 7,000,000 nonprofits,
businesses open to the public, and public accommodations
and commercial facilities). It also includes adoption of
the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, which establishes
final formally codified accessibility requirements for
Generally, final rules will become effective six months
after the date on which they appear in the Federal Register
(expected this month). Compliance with the 2010 Standards
for Accessible Design will be required 18 months after the
date of publication.
This means pools are now required to meet accessibility
standards. But legislatively speaking, “with
respect to swimming pools there really aren’t any
changes,” said John Caden, director of pool lifts
at S.R. Smith, and founder of Rehamed International, which
became part of Canby, Ore.-based S.R. Smith in 2009. Caden
is also a former member of the Association of Pool &
Spa Professionals’ commercial council and an
expert who has provided input in ADA development.
The requirements for pools stated in the 2010 standards
were first published as guidelines in 2004. Specifically,
all pools larger than 300 linear feet of pool wall
perimeter need at least two accessible means of entry, one
of which needs to be either a pool lift or a sloped entry.
The secondary means of entry can be either a lift or sloped
entry, or pool access stairs, transfer system, or transfer
wall. Pools with less than 300 linear feet of pool wall
perimeter need one accessible means of entry, either a pool
lift or sloped entry. Spas need one entry, which can be
either a pool lift, transfer system or a transfer wall.
Technical requirements, for example, exactly what
constitutes a “sloped entry” have also
been adopted in whole by the Department of Justice.
“It’s been a long anticipated release
but most proactive pool operators and aquatic facility
designers have been using the guidelines for a
while,” added John N. McGovern, J.D., president of
Recreation Accessibility Consultants LLC. This firm advises
public agencies and private agencies with recreation
environments on how to comply with the access and inclusion
components of the ADA.
However, both McGovern and Caden agree a number of pools
will still have to make changes to come into
“Last week I saw two relatively new pools that
would have failed,” said McGovern, who is based in
Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Pools that are not in compliance could face fines,
lawsuits, and/or complaints filed against them with the
Department of Justice, according to Caden.
Facilities can be excluded from the law if they prove it
would significantly alter their historic nature, reasonable
accommodations are not readily achievable or it would
create undue financial hardship. But the DOJ has warned
that it would be difficult to prove such a case.