The 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design set March 15, 2012 as the date that all public swimming pools, wading pools and spas in the country must have modifications that allow easy access for the disabled. The law was passed March 15, 2011 and compliance was required by March 15, 2012, but the deadline has been extended to May 21, 2012 with a possible further extension being considered.
The standards for compliance are very rigid. Pools must have a permanent pool lift, sloped entry, transfer wall, transfer system and/or pool steps.
Pool lifts may either be the sling seat or molded type. There are recommendations for seats with supporting backs, more durable materials, armrests, head rests, seat belts and leg supports, but these enhancements are not required.
The following are just a few of the guidelines set up by the ADA:
1) The pool lift must be located where the water does not exceed 4 feet deep.
2) When not in use, the lift seat can be no more than 16 inches from the edge of the pool.
3) The seat is required to be 16 inches wide.
4) The pool lift has to be permanently installed.
5) Pool lifts must have the ability to be operated without assistance both on the deck and in the water.
6) The weight capacity of the lift will be 300 pounds.
7) The surfaces of any sloped entry must be slip resistant.
8) Handrails are to be installed on both sides of the sloped entry.
9) All pool steps are required to have grab bars on both sides.
The law has evoked some controversy. The cost of the permanently installed lifts and issues of safety concern some lawmakers. U.S. Representative Mick Mulvaney from South Carolina and U.S. Senator John Boozman of Arizona are leading the fight against the law. They have proposed revisions that would allow permanent lifts to be optional with portable lifts offered as an alternative. They argue that the law places a burden on communities already laden with budget issues.
South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint introduced a bill on March 26th with the outlined changes, but it has not yet been passed through the Senate. In the meantime, the law is in place and only the Department of Justice can extend the deadline.
Proponents of the law argue that rights of the disabled to have full access to public facilities are essential. There is a long overdue need for the disabled to be able to have access to public facilities that all others enjoy.
Tax incentives are offered for the improvements made to comply with the law. Businesses that do not comply can be fined up to $50,000.