DOJ Extends Pool Lifts Deadline to January 2013

Hundreds of comments, including 520 anonymous form letters, showed significant misunderstandings about the new ADA requirement for accessible means of entry.

A new final rule from the Justice Department gives operators of existing pools and spas more time, until Jan. 31, 2013, to meet sections 242 and 1009 of the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. Those two sections say pools with 300 linear feet of pool wall or more must have two accessible means of entry (a pool lift or sloped entry) and smaller pools must have at least one, as well as what is required for these –- location, size of the seat, lifting capacity, etc.

This requirement has been controversial, as shown by the volume of 1,915 comments submitted to DOJ, and the agency previously proposed delaying the compliance date from March 15, 2012, to Sept. 17, 2012. January 2013 was chosen because some comments showed a significant misunderstanding of the requirements among pool owners and operators, according to the May 21 final rule.

Many owners and operators believed portable lifts would comply, but that's not correct because ADA applies only to fixed and built-in elements, according to DOJ.

The rule says 520 of the comments were anonymous form letters. About 1,420 comments supported the requirements and 495 opposed them.

Parents of children with disabilities supported the requirements, as did organizations representing veterans with disabilities "who indicated that, after a decade of war, a significant number of service members have returned with injuries and are reintegrating into their communities by participating in adaptive sports and that these individuals should have access to pools and spas in their communities without further delay," according to the rule.

The biggest misconception from pool owners and operators was the belief they would have to close their pools if they can't comply, either because lifts weren't available or were unaffordable. Compliance with the 2010 Standards is required only to the extent it is "readily achievable," which means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense," DOJ explained. The rule lists the five factors spelled out in the original ADA in 1990 for determining whether an action is readily achievable, including the overall financial resources of the site(s) involved and any parent organization.

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