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Making Sense of New Simming Pool Regulations

Edward Zwilling Aug. 4, 2012

The 2010 ADA Accessibility Guidelines (hereafter "Standards") include a requirement that all newly constructed or altered swimming pools subject to Title III of the ADA, such as hotels and motels, health clubs, recreation centers, public country clubs, and other businesses that have swimming pools, wading pools, and spas, provide accessible means of entry. These provisions have caused a lot of confusion insofar as existing swimming pools are concerned. Intially, readily achievable modifications to comply with these provisions were due to be completed by March 15, 2012. However, the Department of Justice has now extended that deadline until January 31, 2013.

The 2010 Standards require a newly constructed or altered pool to have one, and in some cases two, accessible means of entry and exit. Section 242 provides that large pools (pools with 300 linear feet of pool wall or more) must have two accessible means of entry and exit. One means of entry/exit must be a fixed pool lift or sloped entry; the other entry can be a transfer wall, transfer system, or pool stairs. Small pools (pools with less than 300 linear feet of pool wall) must provide at least one accessible means of entry/exit, which must be either a fixed pool lift or a sloped entry. Additional information can be found here about the accessibility requirements for newly constructed pools:

Compliance with the new Standards in existing pools is only required to the extent it is readily achievable to do so. My understanding is that the most cost-effective method of providing access is by providing a pool lift. However, there has been confusion over whether that lift must be "fixed" or whether it may be "portable." In order to allay concerns of business owners who attempted to comply with the guidelines and purchased portable lifts prior to March 15, 2012, these business owners will not be required to provide a fixed lift. I understand that the Standards indicate lifts are required to be fixed. However, what remains unclear to me is whether portable lifts that can be "fixed while in use" are sufficient, provided they are so fixed while the pools are open to the public. This appears to be the standard that will be applied to businesses that purchased a portable lift prior to March 15, 2012. Hopefully further clarification will be forthcoming soon.