As federal officials grapple with a deadline extension — and
new legislation — that could change the rules regarding
swimming pools and Americans with Disability Act requirements,
other issues are further complicating the road to compliance.
Manufacturers are backlogged on orders for compliant equipment, and
it appears that there is still some confusion among the state and
local officials charged with inspecting aquatics facilities.
At least two operators are reporting at least a two month turn
around in orders for ADA compliant lifts and some experts estimate
that at the current rate of production it could take years for all
pools to become compliant.
“We’re about eight weeks out on our production,”
said Bruce Giffin, national sales manager, Aqua Creek
There are number of reasons for the delay. ADA compliant
accessibility equipment is not a huge commodity and there are not
many firms that produce it; perhaps as few as three, noted John
McGovern, president of Recreation Accessibility Consultants, LLC, in Hoffman
Moreover, few operations planned to place an order well in advance,
although the original deadline was announced a year ago.
“Human nature played a role,” said Margaret McGrath,
vice president of marketing, S.R. Smith. “Despite being aware of the
original March 15, 2012 deadline, many people waited until the last
minute to order products. I can confirm that those who purchased
lifts in 2011 had shorter lead times than those that waited until
When the U.S. Department of Justice released its Technical
Assistance Document regarding ADA compliance in January —
effectively requiring fixed lifts — some operators decided to
switch gears, which created further delays in placing orders,
The good news is, for those operators who have purchased portable
lift and are not sure what to do now, there may be options that
will allow then to convert their equipment to a permanent option,
if necessary. Retrofit kits are available from several
manufacturers, said McGovern.
Retrofit kits may be one way to avoid lawsuits or questions from
inspectors. However, it appears some state and local inspectors may
have more questions than answers when it comes to ADA.
Accessibility comes under different jurisdictions in different
states, from health departments to building, or licensing and
“Much confusion still exists,” said Tracynda Davis,
environmental health program director at the National Swimming Pool Foundation.
In working with a group of operators recently, McGovern said he saw
first-hand an example of the confusion. He learned that they had
received a memo from their state officials requiring all pool
licensees to inform authorities as to whether compliance was
“readily achievable.” According to the DOJ ADA
guidelines, the phrase “readily achievable” only
applies to Title III facilities (including hotels, motels
nonprofits, swim clubs and other such facilities). All Title II
(municipal) facilities are required to establish “program
accessibility,” meaning that “all programs, services,
and activities, when viewed in their entirety, must be accessible
to individuals with disabilities unless doing so results in a
fundamental alteration in the nature of the program or in an undue
financial and administrative burden.”
Ultimately the federal government is responsible for ADA
enforcement, but state inspectors are impacted on a variety of
levels, most notably when coming into compliance means altering
something within the pool that may conflict with other state
In Oregon, one issue that has come up is how to address ADA
compliance when installing a fixed pool lift blocks required access
around the pool deck for emergency equipment, said Stephen Keifer,
public pool specialist, Oregon Health Authority.
In New York, Doug Sackett said his agency has gotten a lot of
questions and officials have gotten educated on ADA requirements.
Still, they refer inquiries to other authorities.
“I think it’s a potential disservice for us to try to
interpret it,” added the assistant director of the New York State Health
Department and director of the Model Aquatic Health Code