The March 15 deadline is looming to meet compliance standards for the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) revised regulations of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and pool accessibility requirements. The supplemental regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires that all swimming pools, wading pools and spas of less than 300 linear feet have a lift or sloped entry into the pool. Pools larger than 300 linear feet need two means of access, which include a lift or a sloped entry. Other pool access can consist of transfer walls, transfer systems or stairs.

It should not be difficult or expensive for pool facility operators to achieve compliance for their existing pools, says John Caden, accessibility specialist with S.R. Smith, Canby, OR. Many facility operators will simply need to ensure that they have a chair lift.

“The key phrase is ‘readily achievable,’” Caden says, explaining that fitness facility operators with existing pools do not need to renovate their pools with a sloped entry. Instead, they can invest in a more affordable option, like a pool chair lift, which costs as little as $4,000.

However, facility operators planning a new aquatics area or a remodel of an existing pool or spa must ensure the design plans are in accordance with the 2010 ADA regulations, which means they must have a sloped entry.

“It is much easier to alter or modify a drawing for a pool or spa to meet the 2010 requirements during the planning phase than after the fact,” Caden says.

The DoJ recommends that any facility should perform a barrier removal analysis (site analysis) before remodeling or building a new pool or to see if an existing pool site is compliant with the ADA regulations. The audit will determine if the pool meets the pool accessibility requirements and what issues may need to be addressed.

Generally, a facility’s aquatics director or vendor keeps the club apprised of ADA regulations and requirements for compliance. Operators also have to renew pool licenses every year. Those licenses, along with city and state inspections, keep a facility on its toes.

“We would not even be allowed to open our pool if we were not compliant. It just wouldn’t happen,” says Rea Kulick, manager/aquatics director at Midtown Athletic Club-Palatine, outside of Chicago.

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It is important to have a plan in place for compliance before the deadline, Caden says. Operators do not have to have a pool lift installed by March 15 as long as they can show they have a plan in place to comply with the regulations.

“A facility may be in the middle of a budget year and may not have money allocated for a pool lift to be installed this year, but the facility should have a plan in their 2013 budget and have it documented to show evidence that they have been proactive for compliance,” Caden says.

Kulick says that adding a lift is the easiest way to become compliant. Her club uses a portable lift that runs on a rechargeable battery pack. Even though the club has had only one member in the past four years who has used the lift, it is charged every night so it is ready if needed.

Although the Palatine club has an indoor and an outdoor pool, the facility has just one portable lift that can be used for both, rather than having one lift bolted onto each pool deck.

The Merritt Athletic Clubs also invested in chair lifts for seven bodies of water at its facilities, says Andrew Barranco, regional aquatics manager at the Merritt Athletic Clubs, Baltimore. His company has known about the March 15 deadline for a year, and he worked with Merritt’s pool company to find out what they needed to do to be ADA compliant.

A few of the Merritt pools already had zero entry or sloped entries, so no chair lifts were needed, Barranco says.

One of the club’s lifts was an older version that ran on water pressure and was not compliant, so Barranco had to swap out that chair with a newer model. New regulations state that the lifts have to be self-generated.

“Obviously, we want our pools to be accessible, and we don’t want to be liable for denying anybody access to our pools,” Barranco says, adding that his clubs will be in good shape before the March 15 deadline.

Steven Cooper, director of aquatics at the Park Hill School District, Kansas City, MO, also is aware of the upcoming deadlines. He said the best way the district could accommodate the ADA regulations without rebuilding the pool was to install a lift.

“There was not enough deck space to install a sloped entry without major remodeling,” Cooper says.

The district upgraded its lift a couple of years ago, Cooper adds, and its pool company also kept it apprised of the ADA regulations.