I was doing a little research today for an aquatic center who was looking to purchase our gym wipes and I came across some really interesting info. We work with a lot of community centers and YMCA’s all over the country, so it caught my eye. Turns out this week was a pretty big one if you are in the public swimming pool business.
As of March 15, 2012 all public swimming pools in the U.S. must be equipped with accessible means of entry for disabled citizens. That access can come in the form of a sloped entry (ramp) or a pool lift:
Don’t worry…your local YMCA didn’t get that news yesterday. It was added to the American Disabilities Act in September of 2010 with 3/15/12 being the date of compliance.
As great as this legislation is for all the disabled or impaired who are looking for an easy access, refreshing dip in the pool, it certainly poses challenges to a lot of the public, non-profits who run such facilities and older facilities that may not have the structural capacity to comply without making significant changes to their properties. Most lifts cost between 6 and 7,000 dollars and because of the size of most public pools, require more than one access point.
Even though this is a federal amendment, states do have certain powers to allow older facilities to be grandfathered in as an exception, however, the guidelines and qualifications for such exemptions are often grey (at best) and granted on a case by case basis. Usually the exceptions are granted if the addition of such structures would alter the historical nature of the property or if the new accommodations are not readily achievable. A phrase that one can assume is intentionally ambiguous.
Another challenge is defining what qualifies as a “public” pool. A “public entity” is defined by Title II of the Act as “any service, program or facility owned by any governmental agency.” That’s pretty clear. What’s not so clear is Title III's definitions which regulate places of public accommodation, private sector pools and commercial facilities. If you offer any type of public admission, classes, certifications or season passes, you are a public pool. So Holiday Inn with the Wet and Wild Fun Zone, you need to be in the lift market. You too community swimming club.
The fuzzy stuff comes along when you start talking about residential accommodations. The law does not apply to private residences, apartment complexes, condominiums or home owners associations. HOWEVER, if any of those facilities sell memberships or are used for swimming competitions opened to people outside of that organization, that constitutes a public pool. In addition, if you are a condo complex where owners will rent out their units while they are away and provides certain services, like housekeeping or food services, you are considered public. Same goes for timeshares that operate as a hotel.
Though housing complexes and the above mentioned facilities are not subject to the new regulation if they limit the use of their aquatics to residents only, they are still subject to the Fair Housing act. They have to provide barrier free pathways to the edge of the pool and allow residents to use their own lifts and store them at the facility if desired.
So, if you qualify as a public aquatic facility and haven’t met these new requirements, do your research and GET ON IT. You’re already behind and could be subject to civil suits and fines. Here is a link to the full language of the legislation: http://www.ada.gov/pools_2010.htm