Recently, Pool & Spa News ran a number of stories about problems surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act as it pertains to pools and spas, including the one in this issue.
The ADA requires that aquatic venues be accessible in certain, highly specific ways, including the installation of a fixed lift in vessels over a particular size. Portable lifts are not allowed, and neither is sharing of lifts between pools or a pool and a spa.
And that’s the problem. I am deeply cognizant of the need for wheelchair-bound individuals to enjoy swimming, and strongly believe pools and spas should accommodate them. However, to insist on the most expensive, cumbersome and high-maintenance option is ridiculous.
Solving the problem shouldn’t take two bills from Congress that are destined to fail. Nor should it require the huge lobbying efforts and angry editorials we’ve seen from people on both sides of the issue.
To properly implement the ADA, we only need one thing: intellectual honesty.
If the lawmakers and the disabled community looked at the problem objectively rather than through the lens of their own self-interest, I believe it would be solved within an hour.
A recent article in The New York Times focused on lawyers who file suit against small businesses for noncompliance with the ADA. They hire a wheelchair-bound plaintiff for a few hundred dollars, then go trolling for that flower store without a ramp, or the restaurant with bathroom sinks that are an inch too high.
One of the lawyers is quoted as saying, “As a private attorney, every lawsuit that I file is to make money because that’s how I make a living … and in that regard, I’m no different than any other private attorney.”
While I think that type of manufactured malfeasance is really shady, what’s happening with pools and spas is even worse. A bagel store that is hit with a lawsuit will need to spend thousands of dollars and maybe even go out of business, which would be a sad thing. But its mission — selling bagels to hungry people — isn’t as far-reaching and integral to American life as the mission behind public pools.
I’ve heard from a number of facilities that plan to shut down their pools if portable lifts are not allowed. Honestly, who can blame them?
Recently, the Department of Justice granted a 60-day extension for compliance with the ADA, and a six-month stay is being considered. Let’s hope our government comes to its senses before that time has passed.