With less than two months left before the deadline to
comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the
industry doesn’t seem to be rushing to the
Though the ADA was passed in 1990, the standards
specifically for pools and spas, found in the ADA
Accessibility Guidelines, weren’t released until
2010. They state that a commercial pool or spa must have at
least one means of access for the disabled, and vessels
with a perimeter measuring more than 300 linear feet are
required to have a second method.
Under the law, new pools and spas completed after March
15, 2011 must comply. For those in existence before that
date, the original compliance deadline was March 15, 2012.
However, after some confusion as to the interpretation of
certain aspects of the law, the deadline was extended to
Jan. 31, 2013.
One question that drew the most attention earlier this
year was whether portable lifts are considered compliant.
Shortly before the original March deadline, the U.S.
Department of Justice, charged with enforcing the law,
stated that lifts had to be fixed, or permanently attached
to the deck. Later, the DOJ said it would accommodate those
who had purchased portable lifts in good faith before March
15, 2012, but that the equipment would have to be in
position and operational any time the pool or spa was open
The fixed-lift requirement has caused pushback. In
addition to officials with individual facilities, the
American Hotel & Lodging Association, probably the
most vocal group looking for more flexibility in the law,
stated that fixed lifts could pose a hazard, with the
possibility of children climbing on them and falling off.
Such an incident already has been reported, according to
“I heard from a company that on one of their
properties, a 7-year-old child was climbing on the pool
lift, which had a cover over it, and they fell off and cut
their head,” said Kevin Maher,
AH&LA’s senior vice president of government
Furthermore, he said, some AH&LA members report
that their insurance companies are threatening to require
more coverage to account for the possibility of such
But part of the resistance to comply stems from the
recent history of federal regulation of commercial
facilities. Some operators feel burned by the
implementation of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa
Safety Act, with its shifting interpretations and product
recall, which required many to make further changes. They
want to be sure the law isn’t going to change
again. “People are in wait mode,” said
Mitch Friedlander, CEO/president of American Pool
Enterprises in Owings Mills, Md.
Manufacturers and installers alike expect ADA activity
to continue at least until the launch of next
year’s swim season.
For their part, producers have built up inventory to
prepare. “We have a decent stock, but I have a
feeling it will go pretty quickly,” said Bruce
Giffin, national sales manager at Aqua Creek Products in
Activity does seem to be gradually picking up,
manufacturers say. It is believed that many facility owners
were waiting for the outcome of the presidential election.
“It really started after the election, with people
realizing that the current administration wasn’t
going to change,” Giffin said. “I think
they felt that their chances of an extension or revocation
of the law were minimal.”