The Department of Justice has extended the date by which public pools and spas need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The new deadline is January 31, 2013.

This date is more than nine months beyond the original deadline of March 15, 2012.

In a January 2012 guidance document, DOJ announced that compliance with ADA requires that access lifts used to provide entry into existing pools and spas must be next to the vessels at all times, and that they cannot be shared between two bodies of water even if those bodies are in the same location. The DOJ later clarified that portable lifts brought out upon request would be unacceptable. This raised concerns about safety risks and costs posed by fixed lifts.

As the original March deadline approached, 67 members of Congress joined with members of the pool and lodging industries to publicly voice their opposition to some of the requirements. In a letter to the DOJ, these legislators criticized the lack of provisions for portable lifts or sharing, and stated that the deadline was too soon. On March 15, the DOJ granted a 60-day extension and announced that it would consider a further six-month reprieve.

In a public statement, the DOJ officials said that this six-month delay will allow the Department to “continue to educate covered entities about their obligations under the 2010 Standards … and to address misunderstandings that could lead covered entities to take unnecessary and counterproductive steps….”

The DOJ noted three specific areas of concern that prompted this reconsideration. First, some pool operators took steps to comply with the requirements based on misunderstandings of the rules. Second, many operators were having difficulty acquiring enough pool lifts to bring their pools into compliance. Third, some operators were considering closing pools rather than pay to bring them into compliance — an action that the DOJ says may not be warranted.

However, the DOJ also noted that this delay does not affect public pools and spas that are currently under construction or renovation. The fixed lift requirement does now apply to pools and spas being constructed or altered.