This new federal regulation will affect the lives of more than 16% of the US population, which is made up of citizens that have some kind of disability, thus creating the largest minority group in United States.
The purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to guarantee the rights of Americans with disabilities. It ensures that all Americans with disabilities can compete for jobs and can enjoy the same benefits as every other US citizen. The first American with Disabilities Act was signed into law by president H.W. Bush in July of 1990. The first ADA regulation in 1991 included items that we have come to recognize as part of our daily lives, such as handicap parking, curb cuts, and accessible restrooms. Recreational facilities in general were not affected by this regulation. However, pool facilities were required to have accessible locker rooms, parking, and hallways with no barriers.
In 2004, the Department of Justice issued new ADA guidelines, which became the foundation for the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design that will affect all facilities, including swimming pools.
The 2010 ADA law is divided into sections and chapters. The law is broken into 2 main sections: Title II - this covers government owned facilities, such as the Department of Parks and Recreation, state-run schools and universities, and military bases. Title III – this covers privately owned public facilities, such as hotels, health clubs, private schools, community centers, and private residences that offer public accommodations, such as apartment complexes, private condominiums, and HOA’s.
The regulation will affect swimming pools, spas, wading pools, and aquatic recreational facilities. The regulation defines 5 permitted means of entry to the pool: Primary - lifts and sloped entries and secondary - transfer walls, transfer systems, and accessible pool stairs. The only mean of entry that can be used on its own without any other means of entry, is a sloped ramp.
Swimming pools with less than 300 linear feet of pool wall must have at least one primary mean of entry - handicap lift or sloped entry.
Swimming pools with more than 300 linear feet of pool wall must have two means of entry - at least one of them must be primary. The primary means of entry must be either a sloped entry or a pool lift capable of being independently operated by a person with a disability. The secondary means of entry can include a pool lift, sloped entry, transfer wall, transfer system, or pool stairs.
The regulation provides detailed specifications for the pool lifts and slopes. The main requirements of pool lifts are that the user must be able to operate it independently and it must provide foot rests. Sloped entries can be built in entryways or can be a removable ramp and they must have handrails. Sloped entries must be in compliance with all ADA specifications. The regulation specifies detailed requirements for secondary means of entry as well.