On the heels of a U.S. Department of Justice interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act restricting use of portable lifts, several industry organizations and manufacturers are banding together to challenge the decision.
The issue revolves around a DOJ ruling stating that ADA Title III facilities (including hotels, motels nonprofits, swim clubs and other such facilities) may use portable lifts that meet the 2010 standards only if a fixed lift is not “readily achievable.”
For Title II (municipal) facilities, the DOJ said sharing a portable lift between multiple pools is not permitted unless it would result in undue burdens to provide equipment at each one. Further, the DOJ said portable lifts must be available and operable during all hours that the pool is open to the public.
Stakeholders, including manufacturers and industry organizations, are hoping to change that.
“The big issue for all of us is leaving the lift out all of the time,” said John Caden, accessibility specialist at S.R. Smith in Canby, Ore. “Our fear as an industry ... is that the lifts are going to become an unintended play hazard.”
As of press time, a group including APSP, S.R. Smith, National Swimming Pool Foundation, Spectrum Aquatics and Aqua Creek Products was preparing a response to the DOJ, with legal counsel from New York attorney Steve Getzoff.
Other organizations were also considering joining the group.
They follow the American Hotel & Lodging Association, which was first out of the gate, asking that the DOJ reconsider the interpretation. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, AH&LA requested that the DOJ extend the compliance deadline, originally set for March 15, noted Kevin Maher, senior vice president, government affairs.
Xochitl Hinojosa, a DOJ spokeswoman, said the DOJ was reviewing the AH&LA letter and declined further comment on the matter.
The aquatics industry group is not seeking a deadline extension, but rather more allowance for portable lifts.
“We’re coming at this as the swimming pool industry. We want to be the experts who are able to provide information to the DOJ,” said Jennifer Hatfield, APSP’s director of government affairs. “It’s our contention that there is still an allowance for portable lifts. I don’t believe that right now you could say that a portable lift doesn’t meet the requirements of the act.”
Caden added that to his understanding, there is currently no research that supports DOJ’s contention that pool lifts be fixed in place. He said more research and professional risk assessment is needed.