ADA And Aquatics

The largest minority group in the United States does not discriminate against new members. Any one of us may become a member at any time. Similar to other minority groups, inclusion in this group is not a choice. It is becoming a powerful political force, and for decades it has shaped the way that any public facility can be designed and operated.

Meeting ADA requirement for pools

And it is growing rapidly.

As human life expectancy increases, the number of disabled people will continue to grow. U.S. Census Bureau projections show that the over-65 and over-85 demographic brackets are predicted to double over the next 30 years.

Further statistics from the bureau indicate:

• 22 percent of the current population are disabled

• 72 percent of people 80 and older are disabled

• 52.1 million people have some level of disability

• 32.5 million people have severe disabilities

• 4 million children have some level of disability

• 2.7 million people age 15 or older use a wheelchair

• 9.1 million people age 15 or older use an ambulatory aid (a cane, crutch or walker).

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed and forever changed the way those with disabilities live. The comprehensive civil-rights act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. It can trace its roots to the largest and hardest fought of all constitutional amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which essentially makes it illegal for any place that receives federal funds to discriminate on the basis of race, religion or national origin.

Other laws and amendments have slowly expanded the 1964 Act to include gender, families and those with disabilities–all of which culminated in the passage of ADA.

ADA’s impact is felt across all public facilities because it requires that newly constructed and altered places of public accommodation and commercial facilities be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. While every part of the facility does not need to be handicap-accessible, there does need to be a way for a disabled person to gain access to all areas and amenities.

ADA, ADAAG And Regulations

The reason this is important for aquatics is because aquatic-therapy programs are among the fastest growing and most profitable pool programs.

However, before ADA and the more recently updated 2004 ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), it was very difficult for disabled persons to access most public swimming pools, which normally have a couple of ladders and sometimes a set of stairs.

ADAAG requires that all public pools have at least one access point where a handicapped person can enter and exit a swimming pool. Pools that have over 300 linear feet of wall require two means of ingress and egress. ADAAG lists five types of access:

• Sloped entries, such as a ramp with a dual handrail

• An ADA-accessible lift that can be operated without assistance

• A transfer wall in which a person in a wheelchair can move from the chair onto the wall and into the pool

• A transfer system in which a person in a wheelchair can move from the chair onto a platform and “bump” his or her way down into the pool

• Stairs with a dual handrail.

The chart below shows five different types of pools and the five means of access that apply to each.

On July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed into law an update to the 2004 ADAAG that includes many clarifications and minor revisions of the past regulations. One section in particular–Sec.36.311 Mobility Devices–may impact the world of aquatics:

(a) Use of wheelchairs and manually powered mobility aids. A public accommodation shall permit individuals with mobility disabilities to use wheelchairs and manually powered mobility aids, such as walkers, crutches, canes, braces, or other similar devices designed for use by individuals with mobility disabilities in any areas open to pedestrian use.

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  2. Plunging Into Aquatics
  3. Winning Over Residents
  4. Examining Outdoor Pools
  5. Double-Duty Pools
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