New ADA Aquatic Regulations

Making commercial swimming pools more accessible to the public achieves a two-fold purpose: complying with the new standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and accommodating a more diverse clientele.

New ADA requirements will improve access to pools.

“Providing a greater level of accessibility…is just good business,” says Bill Botten, an accessibility specialist with the U.S. Access Board in Washington, D.C.

“Unfortunately, some recreational facilities are struggling to understand the new ADA requirements.”

The revised ADA Standards for Accessible Design–adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in September 2010–require commercial pools to have at least one primary means of access, which could be either a pool lift or a sloped entry.

The law, which went into effect on March 15, 2011, applies to both public and private facilities, including:

• Parks and recreation districts

• Schools and universities

• Municipalities

• Cities and counties

• Hotels and lodgings

• Hospitals and healthcare facilities

• Fitness and sports clubs

• Water parks

The DOJ notes that compliance is not required until March 15, 2012.

The website also states, “If elements in existing facilities already comply with corresponding elements in the 1991 standards and are not being altered, then Title II entities are not required to make changes to those elements to bring them into compliance with the 2010 standards.”

Public and government facilities that fall into the “Title II” category include parks and recreation districts; public schools and universities; and municipalities, cities, and counties.

Botten says there are important steps that facilities should be taking now in order to comply.

“They should conduct a thorough review of their existing spaces, and possibly bring in a consultant to do a compliance review to determine where the barriers are,” he suggests.

“The review will determine what the facility’s obligations are over time because the guidelines are only a minimum, and sometimes that’s not enough to meet the needs of customers.”

For those who are in the process of designing a new facility or conducting renovations, Botten says it is important to entrust the work to companies that understand the ADA requirements.

Lifts help make aquatic activities easier for people of all abilities.

He also recommends forming a community-based focus group from a broad cross-section of individuals–including those with impairments–who can provide valuable input on creating a user-friendly facility.

Open The Door

According to the new law, pools with less than 300 linear feet must have one primary means of access. Those with more than 300 linear feet require two accessible points, one of which must be a primary means–such as a lift or sloped entry.

Pool stairs, transfer walls, and transfer systems are considered a secondary means of access and can be used when there is already a primary means in place.

“One pitfall commercial facilities could face is thinking they don’t need to comply. Some facilities simply see this as an added expense when really it is a door-opener,” says Tracy Corens, director of marketing for Spectrum Aquatics in Mendota Heights, Minn.

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