All hotels, health clubs and other public accommodations must retrofit their existing pools and spas with either a pool lift or sloped entry ramp by January 31, 2013, in compliance with the Department of Justice's (DOJ's) 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards).
In 2010, the DOJ published updated regulations for Title II and Title III of the ADA, requiring newly constructed and altered businesses to be fully accessible to people with disabilities, using the 2010 Standards. These standards have specific accessibility requirements for a number of types of recreational facilities, including swimming pools, wading pools and spas.
According to the DOJ's regulations, newly constructed or altered swimming pools, wading pools and spas must have an accessible way for people with disabilities to get in and out of a pool.
For example, all pools with fewer than 300 linear feet of wall must have either a pool lift or a sloped entry that complies with the 2010 Standards. If a pool is larger than 300 linear feet of wall, it must have two accessible means of entry and exit. One means of entry/exist must be a fixed pool lift (a lift that is attached to the pool deck or apron in some way) or sloped entry, and the other can be:
A transfer wall; or
A transfer system.
If it is significantly difficult or expensive to install a fixed lift, a business should install a non-fixed lift (one that is not attached in any way to the pool deck or apron). The DOJ will decide whether or not to enforce the fixed lift requirement against a business that purchased a portable lift (one that can be moved or fixed if it is attached to the pool deck or apron in some way) before March 15, 2012. It is important to note that the lift must be kept in position for use at the pool and operational during all times that the pool is open to guests.
All spas must retrofit their pools with either a lift or a transfer wall. If there are multiple pools in any one location, only one pool or five percent of the pools (whichever is greater) must be made ADA accessible.These requirements apply unless retrofitting is not readily achievable (i.e., involves significant difficulty or expense).
The DOJ will look at whether an alteration is not readily achievable on a case-by-case basis, looking at factors such as:
The nature and cost of the needed action;
The financial, staff and other resources available to the business and any parent entity; and
The impact on the operation of the site, including legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.
A business should carefully document any significant difficulties or expenses and speak with employment counsel. In addition, because accessibility in existing facilities is an ongoing duty, a covered entity that cannot currently apply the 2010 Standards should create a plan to provide access into the pool when it becomes readily achievable in the future.
Employee Management > Disabilities (ADA)
Department of Justice - ADA Compliance
ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Accessible Pools - Accessible Means of Entry and Exit
Questions and Answers: Accessibility Requirements for Existing Swimming Pools at Hotels and other Public Accommodations