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 finish.
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 to users.
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 the association.
“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 affairs.
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 incidents.
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 Missoula, Mont.
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.”