The recent adoption of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design that establishes detailed accessibility requirements for commercial pools, commercial aquatic facilities must be in compliance beginning in April of 2011.
The actual details of the law can be accessed at the government website www.access-board.gov/recreation/guides/pools.htm
It is estimated that there are roughly 100,000 commercial swimming pools that will require accessibility improvements to become compliant with the ADA law.
Facilities not in compliance could face federal criminal prosecution and/or lawsuits. The April 2011 compliance deadline applies to all newly constructed commercial swimming pools. Existing commercial pools will be given one year to make the neccesary access improvements to become compliant.
Larger commercial pools, 300 linear feet of wall perimeter, will be required to offer two different means of entry that are wheelchair accessible. One entry can be an automated pool lift or a sloped entry. The second entry should not be the same as the first which could be portable pool access stairs, or a transfer wall that helps people lift themselves over the side of the pool.
Smaller pools, less than 300 linear feet of wall perimeter will be required to only have one wheelchair accessibility entrance which can be either a pool lift or a sloped entry.
Spas in commercial facilities will be required to have one entry which can be either a lift, a transfer system or a transfer wall.
Certainly the ADA mandated removal of physical barriers to commercial swimming pools is a positive step forward for those with disabilities. But there are unseen barriers such that can be just as limiting.
As greater numbers of disabled Americans join us at the pool let us remain aware of their desire to be recognized and accepted just as any one of us would want. The social stigma of being disabled can be more debilitating to a disabled person than the disability itself.
Being compliant with the unseen barriers is hard to measure but equally important.
Lets be sure that POOL OPEN truly means that the pool is open!