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.
Often the main safety issue with an injured, disabled or elderly swimmer involves safe entry and egress. Therefore, the most common solution is a lift. This is the primary means of access that is a mechanical device used to transfer an individual in and out of a swimming pool. A lift can be added to the side of an inground pool, above ground pool, or hot tub and can be battery or water pressure powered. As of May 15, 2012, all public swimming pools in the U.S. must be equipped with assisted entry systems. With this American Disability Association (ADA) compliance law, disabled Americans around the nation will be able to enjoy the health and leisure benefits of public pools. As part of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, regulations of the Accessible Design for Recreational Facilities have required all public pools and hot tubs to be outfitted with an ADA compliant swimming pool lift or sloped entry.
Primary means of access that is ideal for facilities with a large group of ambulatory users. A sloped entry can be a built-in entryway or a removable ramp. Facilities that use sloped entries as a means of access are also encouraged to provide a mobile aquatic chair designed for access into the water. Multi-purpose disability access ramps consist of a ramp, stair and underwater parallel bars. It can easily be removed from the pool making room for automatic cleaners and pool covers.
A secondary means of access that allows someone to transfer onto the top of the pool wall from a wheelchair and ease into the water. At least one grab bar should extend the width of the top of the pool wall. This type of access is typically used in hot tubs.
This secondary type of access provides balance and support for someone entering the pool from a standing position. Portable access ladders act as an easy-to-use staircase that can be attached anywhere along the edge for effortless entry or exiting. They also come with a deck adapter platform, side skirting to prevent underwater entrapment and dolly. The staircase consists of slip-resistant tread steps.
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.
ADA regulations affect several types of aquatic areas. These include swimming pools, hot tubs, 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:
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: