As with any kind of building regulation, designers have already run into tough spots, wrestling with seeming contradictions they feel may actually compromise the disabled.
For example, the law states that sloped entries must terminate in no more than 2-1/2 feet of water, but designers shouldn’t believe they’re limited to 30-inch-deep ramps. In fact, greater depths are often appropriate.
“Most states won’t allow you to build a non-therapy pool that’s shallower than 3 feet, or in some states 3-1/2 or even 4 feet deep,” says aquatic-therapy expert Andrea Salzman, owner of the Aquatic Resource Network in Plymouth, Minn.
“The shallower the water is, the higher the incident of catastrophic injury with a head-first [fall].”
However, when installing a deeper ramp, designers must include a landing where the water is 2-1/2 to 3 feet deep. The law was likely written this way with the wheelchair-bound in mind. To an adult sitting in a chair, 3-1/2-foot-deep water will come up to about the chest.
However, most disabled people are ambulatory but unsteady, Salzman says. One of the reasons they use a pool is the buoyancy helps them get around unassisted. But 2-1/2-foot-deep water would only provide about 50 percent buoyancy.
Some also worry about the 300-lb. requirement for pool-lift seats, and the maximum allowed distance of 24 inches between handrails on stairs. With obesity becoming a bigger epidemic, they believe the seats should be able to hold more weight, and that more space should be provided between handrails.
The ADA does acknowledge higher load tolerances may be better.
Finally, professionals are concerned about the clause stating that sloped entries don’t have to be slip-resistant. People who need this kind of entry may very well have their balance compromised, and in such shallow water, some believe it can be dangerous and may lead to a slip-and-fall.