The U.S. Department of Justice has given pool operators another break.
As the already-extended deadline to comply with new provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding access to public pools and spas approached last week, government officials ruled that facilities now do not have to be equipped with means of handicapped-accessible entry until Jan. 31, 2013.
For pools less than 300 linear feet in size, the ADA Standard for Accessible Design calls for one means of access, which must be either an ADA-compliant lift or a sloped entry. Pools with greater than 300 linear feet of pool wall must also have a second means of access - either another lift or ramp, or a transfer wall, a transfer system or pool stairs. Estimates have placed the number of pools that need to be brought into compliance at approximately 100,000, thereby helping earn the provision the nickname "poolmageddon." A backlog of orders at lift-manufacturing facilities was said to have been a primary reason for the multiple deadline extensions.
But, as confusion is another reason for the January 2013 deadline extension:
Many owners and operators believed portable lifts would comply, but that's not correct because ADA applies only to fixed and built-in elements, according to DOJ.
The rule says 520 of the comments were anonymous form letters. About 1,420 comments supported the requirements and 495 opposed them.
Parents of children with disabilities supported the requirements, as did organizations representing veterans with disabilities "who indicated that, after a decade of war, a significant number of service members have returned with injuries and are reintegrating into their communities by participating in adaptive sports and that these individuals should have access to pools and spas in their communities without further delay," according to the rule.
The biggest misconception from pool owners and operators was the belief they would have to close their pools if they can't comply, either because lifts weren't available or were unaffordable. Compliance with the 2010 Standards is required only to the extent it is "readily achievable," which means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense," DOJ explained. The rule lists the five factors spelled out in the original ADA in 1990 for determining whether an action is readily achievable, including the overall financial resources of the site(s) involved and any parent organization.
Facilities in violation of the ADA requirements after January 31, 2013, face fines levied by the DOJ or lawsuits filed by individuals or advocacy groups.