Pool accessibility has become a hot topic in Washington, D.C.
A second congressional bill addressing the Americans with Disabilities Act has been introduced.
On March 26, Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) introduced H.R. 4256, calling for a one-year extension of the ADA deadline for public pools. If passed, the bill also would allow portable lifts and sharing of lifts between vessels. It would prohibit lawsuits against pool and spa facilities for ADA violations alleged to occur between March 15, 2012, and one year after enactment of the bill.
“Congressman Mulvaney believes portable lifts and shared lifts are the best solution...,” said Mulvaney spokesperson Danielle McAdaragh. “It allows for lift accessibility and safety, as well as being more economically achievable...”
The bill has 26 original co-sponsors. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is among the most recognized, and Mike Ross (D-Ark.) is the only Democrat.
In early March, Mulvaney joined 67 members of Congress in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, which enforces the ADA, decrying its decision not to allow portable lifts or sharing. In addition, he took issue with the timing of the decision, which came 45 days before the deadline. “In that short time, approximately 309,000 pools or spas would need their own individual lifts,” McAdaragh said. The letter asked the DOJ to, at the very least, extend the deadline by six months.
“Once Congressman Mulvaney saw the strain placed on small-business owners who were rushed to [comply], and the concern for the safety of those using pool lifts, he decided to introduce [the bill],” McAdaragh said.
Though the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals is analyzing the language, its director of government affairs, Jennifer Hatfield, expressed support for the portable-lift allowance. “We believe that’s what the initial 2010 standards allowed for,” she said.
H.R. 4256 isn’t alone. On March 12, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) introduced S. 2186, which would prohibit the federal government from enforcing the ADA standards on public pools and spas.
On March 15, the original compliance deadline, the DOJ granted a 60-day extension with a six-month reprieve being considered.
The issue has received coverage in the mainstream press, with outlets such as CNN and the South Florida Sun Sentinel discussing the pool requirements.
All this attention follows lobbying efforts by organizations from the pool, aquatics and hospitality industries. A key player has been the American Hotel & Lodging Association. It routinely conducts legislative “fly-ins,” whereby its members travel to Capitol Hill to meet with congressional representatives and senators. This year, approximately 250 AH&LA members met with about 300 legislators, with the ADA issue among its priorities.
Of the two bills, the second has been the most positively received. “It allows us to meet the requirements and needs of [people] with disabilities, but in a reasonable way,” said Kevin Maher, senior vice president of governmental affairs at the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “This legislation supports what we’ve been asking for all along.”
Still, given a truncated legislative season to accommodate this year’s campaigning, not to mention a glut of bills working their way through Congress, experts acknowledge it will be an uphill battle.
Though APSP and the AH&LA have not taken a position on the DeMint bill, they have expressed appreciation, saying it may have helped spur the latest activity.