There are over 50 million people with disabilities in the United States, which equates to 18% of the population – making persons with disabilities the largest minority group. To protect this population, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was designed to prevent discrimination against a person based on a disability. The goal of the ADA is to provide a level playing field so that a person with a disability can compete equally for jobs and also enjoy the same benefits of living in the United States as a person who is able-bodied.
As part of the legislation passed by the ADA, over 100,000 commercial swimming pools will be required to become accessible to people with disabilities by March 15, 2012. Generally, this legislation will only affect state and local government owned facilities, parks and recreation departments, state run schools and universities, as well as hotels, health clubs, private schools and community centers. Private residences, apartments and condominiums are not affected, with a few exceptions:
ADA regulations affect several types of aquatic areas. These include swimming pools, spas, wading pools and other aquatic recreation facilities such as wave pools and lazy rivers. Beaches, lakes, rivers and catch pools are NOT affected by the new ADA legislation. Means of access will need to be provided to the types of aquatic areas affected by the legislation. The newly adopted regulations define five permitted means of access for swimming pools, including:
Access requirements differ depending on the size of the swimming pool. For large pools with over 300 linear feet of pool wall, two means of access are required. One of these MUST be a primary access. For smaller pools with under 300 linear feet of pool wall, at least one means of access must be provided, and it MUST be primary.
Tax credits are also available to ease the financial burden associated with implementing these new regulations. If a facility has annual revenue under $1 million or has fewer than 30 employees, it can receive a tax credit up to $5000 to help offset the cost of the accessibility modifications.
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