Government Releases Q&A
regarding the new ADA Pool Rules
ANSWERS: ACCESSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR EXISTING
SWIMMING POOLS AT HOTELS AND OTHER PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS
In 2010, the Department of Justice published updated
regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These regulations
adopted the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards), which, for
the first time, contain specific accessibility requirements for a number of
types of recreational facilities, including swimming pools, wading pools, and
In January 2012, the Department issued guidance
2010 Revised Requirements: Accessible Pools—Accessible Means of Entry and Exit”
to assist entities covered by Title III of the ADA, such as hotels and motels,
health clubs, recreation centers, public country clubs, and other businesses
that have swimming pools, wading pools, and spas, in understanding how the new
requirements apply to them.
This Questions and Answers document provides answers
to some common questions regarding requirements in the 2010 regulations and
Standards as they apply to public accommodations with existing pools. While
the document answers a large number of questions, one of our key goals is to
emphasize the flexibility of the standards for existing swimming pools. Three
points are especially important. The first is that in response to public
comments, we have extended the compliance date until January 31, 2013. The
second point is that under the ADA, there is no need to provide access to
existing pools if doing so is not “readily achievable.” Providing access is
not readily achievable if it would involve significant difficulty or expense.
The third point is that the Department will not pursue enforcement of the
fixed lift requirements against those who have purchased otherwise-compliant
portable lifts before March 15, 2012 as long as they are kept in position for
use at the pool and operational during all times that the pool is open to
guests. In general, the Department plans to work collaboratively and
constructively with all businesses that have questions about the meaning of
the 2010 regulations and standards, with respect for their particular
challenges, needs, and concerns, including the needs of small businesses that
may be unfamiliar with the ADA.
What is the
effective compliance date of the ADA standards for accessible pools?
date of the 2010 Standards generally is March 15, 2012. However, and in
response to public comments and concerns, the Department has extended the date
for compliance for the requirements related to the provision of accessible
entry and exit to existing swimming pools, wading pools, and spas to January
What does the
ADA require for accessibility of pools?
Title III of
the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by places of
public accommodation, including many private businesses. Title III requires
newly constructed and altered business facilities to be fully accessible to
people with disabilities, applying the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. In
addition, Title III requires businesses to remove accessibility barriers in
existing facilities when doing so is readily achievable.
Standards require that newly constructed or altered swimming pools,
wading pools, and spas have an accessible way for people with disabilities to
enter and exit the pool. The Standards also provide technical specifications
for when a means of entry is accessible, such as, for pool lifts, the
location, size of the seat, lifting capacity, and clear floor space. You can
see the 2010 ADA Standards at
existing swimming pools built before the effective date of the new rule,
the 2010 Standards provide the guide for achieving accessibility. However,
full compliance may not be required in existing facilities (see
Standards explain whether a newly constructed or altered pool needs to have
one or two accessible means of entry and exit. Section 242 provides that large
pools (pools with 300 linear feet of pool wall or more) must have two
accessible means of entry and exit. One means of entry/exit must be a fixed
pool lift or sloped entry; the other entry can be a transfer wall, transfer
system, or pool stairs. Small pools (pools with less than 300 linear feet of
pool wall) must provide at least one accessible means of entry/exit, which
must be either a fixed pool lift or a sloped entry.
The 2010 Standards also
provide details about what features an accessible means of entry or exit
should have. Specifically, section 1009 addresses the location, size of the
seat, lifting capacity, and clear floor space required for fixed pool lifts,
as well as the requirements for sloped entries, transfer walls, transfer
systems, and pool stairs. A copy of the 2010 ADA Standards is available at
Standards require that new or altered wading pools have a sloped entry. New or
altered spas must have at least one accessible means of entry, which may be a
transfer wall, a transfer system, or a pool lift. See sections 242.3
and 242.4 of the 2010 Standards.
community pool have to provide an accessible means of exit and entry?
Community pools that are associated with a private residential community and
are limited to the exclusive use of residents and their guests are not covered
by the ADA accessibility requirements. On the other hand, if a swimming
pool/club located in a residential community is made available to the public
for rental or use, it is covered under Title III of the ADA. If a community
pool is owned or operated by a state or local government entity, it is covered
by Title II of the ADA, which requires “program accessibility.” See
REQUIREMENTS FOR EXISTING POOLS
already existed before the effective date of the new rule. What am I required
to do to provide pool access to customers with mobility disabilities?
requires businesses to make existing pools accessible only when it is "readily
achievable" to do so. Readily achievable means that providing access is easily
accomplishable without much difficulty or expense. The 2010 Standards provide
the benchmark, or goal, for accessibility in existing pools. (See
for the 2010 Standards requirements for pools). However, owners of existing
pools need to comply with the 2010 Standards only to the extent that doing so
is readily achievable for them.
Standards for pool lifts require lifts to be fixed and to meet additional
requirements for location, size of the seat, lifting capacity, and clear floor
space. Therefore, if a business can provide a fixed lift that meets all of the
2010 Standards’ requirements without much difficulty or expense, the business
must provide one. If no fully compliant lift is readily achievable for the
business, the business is not obligated to provide a fully compliant lift
until doing so becomes readily achievable. In addition, the business may
provide a non-fixed lift that otherwise complies with the requirements in the
2010 Standards if doing so is readily achievable and if full compliance is
Are there any
tax credits or deductions to help me comply?
Yes. To assist
businesses with complying with the ADA, Section 44 of the IRS Code allows a
tax credit for small businesses and Section 190 of the IRS Code allows a tax
deduction for all businesses. The tax credit is available to businesses that
have total revenues of $1,000,000 or less in the previous tax year or 30 or
fewer full-time employees. This credit can cover 50% of the eligible access
expenditures in a year up to $10,250 (maximum credit of $5000). The tax credit
can be used to offset the cost of undertaking barrier removal and alterations
to improve accessibility; providing accessible formats such as Braille, large
print and audio tape; making available a sign language interpreter or a reader
for customers or employees; and for purchasing certain adaptive equipment. The
tax deduction is available to all businesses with a maximum deduction of
$15,000 per year. The tax deduction can be claimed for expenses incurred in
barrier removal and alterations. To learn more about the tax credit and tax
deduction provisions, contact the DOJ ADA Information Line (at 800-514-0301
(voice); 800-514-0383 (TTY).
What if I
can’t afford to install a fixed lift in my pool, or it would be difficult to
In that case,
installation is not required. If it is not readily achievable for a business
to provide a fixed lift – that is, if it would be too difficult or expensive
to make these changes – then a business may use other ways, such as a
non-fixed lift, to provide access to the pool. If it is not readily achievable
to provide access to the existing pool, even by way of a non-fixed lift, the
business need not do so. Nonetheless, it should make a plan to achieve
compliance with the pool access requirements when doing so becomes readily
What is the
difference between a “portable” lift and a “fixed” lift?
The real issue
is not whether a lift is “portable” versus “fixed,” but rather whether a lift
is “fixed” versus “non-fixed.” A fixed lift means that the lift is attached to
the pool deck or apron in some way. A non-fixed lift means that it is not
attached in any way. Therefore, a portable lift that is attached to the pool
deck would be considered a fixed lift. Thus, owners of portable lifts can
fully comply with the access requirements by affixing their lifts to the pool
deck or apron. They are required to do so if that is readily achievable,
except in certain circumstances discussed below.
How do I determine if it is readily
achievable for me to install a lift in my existing pool?
Readily achievable means that providing
access is easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.
This is a flexible, case-by-case analysis, with the goal of ensuring that ADA
requirements are not unduly burdensome, including to small businesses. The
readily achievable analysis is based on factors such as the nature and cost of
the needed action; all the financial, staff and other resources available to
the business and any parent entity; and the impact on the operation of the
site, including legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe
Generally, a mere franchisor-franchisee relationship, where the franchisor
does not own or operate the franchisee business, will not require
consideration of the franchisor’s resources in determining what is readily
the same standard that places of public accommodation have been using for all
covered elements of existing facilities since 1992. Guidance on “Common
Questions: Readily Achievable Barrier Removal” is available at
purchased a portable lift before March 15, 2012. Can I still use it?
Yes. If you
have purchased a non-fixed lift before March 15th that otherwise complies with
the requirements in the 2010 Standards for pool lifts (such as seat size,
etc.), you may use it, as long as you keep it in position for use at the pool
and operational during all times that the pool is open to guests. Because of a
misunderstanding by some pool owners regarding whether the use of portable
pool lifts would comply with barrier removal obligations, the Department, as a
matter of prosecutorial discretion, will not enforce the fixed elements of the
2010 Standards against those owners or operators of existing pools who
purchased portable lifts prior to March 15, 2012 and who keep the portable
lifts in position for use at the pool and operational during all times that
the pool is open to guests so long as those lifts otherwise comply with the
requirements of the 2010 Standards. Generally, lifts purchased after March 15,
2012 must be fixed if it is readily achievable to do so.
If a portable
lift was purchased after March 15, 2012, the obligation to remove barriers is
an ongoing one. If it becomes readily achievable to attach the lift to the
pool at a later date you must do so. Manufacturers, for example, are providing
kits to attach portable lifts.
I do not have
a lift at my pool and it is not readily achievable to provide one now. Do I
have to close the pool?
accessibility is not readily achievable, the Department recommends that
businesses develop a plan to provide access into the pool when it becomes
readily achievable in the future. Because accessibility in existing facilities
is an ongoing obligation, a covered entity must provide accessible features
when it becomes readily achievable to do so.
that it is readily achievable to provide a lift, but the lift I ordered is on
back order. Do I have to close my pool until the lift arrives?
No. A business
in this situation should order and install a compliant lift and install it
when it becomes available.
What if I have two pools or a pool and a spa?
Can I share a lift between pools?
construction, each pool or spa must provide accessible entry and exit. For
existing pools, whether each pool or spa must have its own lift (or other
accessible means of entry) depends on whether it is readily achievable. If it
is not readily achievable for a business to provide a lift at each pool or
spa, it does not mean the inaccessible pool or spa must be closed. In these
circumstances, the business should make a plan to purchase and install a
compliant pool lift or other accessible entry when it becomes readily
achievable to do so.
non-fixed pool lifts between pools can pose safety risks to swimmers with
disabilities because if a lift has been moved to another pool, a person with a
disability might be unable to get out of the pool. Sharing lifts between pools
also requires people with disabilities to rely on staff assistance to find,
move, and set up the lift each time.
If I can’t provide a lift at every pool, do I
have to close the one(s) that has no lift?
No. If it is
not readily achievable to provide a lift at each pool, the inaccessible pool(s)
may remain open.
Do I have to
leave my pool lift out at poolside when my pool is closed?
No. Pool lifts
are required to be available only when the pool is open and available to the
public. If a pool is closed during the winter months or at night, the public
accommodation is free to remove the lift from the pool and store it.
Can I store my
lift and bring it out only when it is requested by a person with a disability?
No. A pool
lift must remain in place and be operational during all times that the pool is
open to guests. The ADA and its implementing regulations require equal and
independent access for people with disabilities for all covered facilities
(not just pools). Allowing covered entities to store lifts and only take them
out on request places unnecessary additional burdens on people with
disabilities. People with disabilities have long faced the challenges of
dealing with portable accessibility features – e.g., staff are unavailable or
too busy to help locate and set up the equipment, the equipment is missing,
the equipment isn’t maintained, or staff do not know how to safely set up the
equipment. In addition, the ADA Standards specify that a lift must be located
at the proper water depth and with the necessary space around it to maneuver a
wheelchair. Moving a portable lift around raises the likelihood that the lift
will be improperly located, making it difficult or dangerous to use.
I think a lift
poses a safety risk at an unattended pool. I also have heard that my insurance
rates will increase if I have a lift in my unattended pool. Can I consider
The ADA allows
businesses to consider “legitimate safety requirements” in determining whether
an action is readily achievable, as long as the requirements are based on
actual risks and are necessary for the safe operation of the business.
However, a “legitimate safety requirement” cannot be based on speculation or
unsubstantiated generalizations about safety concerns or risks. We note that
businesses cannot rely on limitations on coverage or insurance rates as a
reason not to comply with the ADA.
I’ve provided a pool lift. Do I have any
further legal obligations?
accessible means of entry to a pool, such as your lift, has been provided, it
needs to remain available and in working condition while the pool is open to
the public. Staff should also be trained so they will know how the lift works,
where it is located, and how to operate and maintain it. For example, a pool
lift that operates on batteries may need to be recharged periodically. To be
sure that lift remains operable, staff should know how to charge the battery
and be assigned to perform the task as necessary.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE 2010
What is the Department's approach going to be
to ensuring compliance with the new regulation pertaining to pool lifts?
As a general
matter, the Department favors voluntary compliance with the ADA from covered
entities. The Department seeks collaborative approaches. To achieve these
objectives, the Department has a robust outreach and technical assistance
program designed to assist businesses and State and local governments to
understand their obligations under the ADA.
If I have a question about the new
requirements, where do I go?
Department’s wide-ranging outreach, education and technical assistance program
is designed to assist businesses and State and local governments to understand
their obligations under the ADA. Additional information about the ADA’s
requirements, including the 2010 ADA Standards, is available on the
Department’s ADA Website at www.ada.gov.
If you have
questions and would like to speak to an ADA Specialist, please call the ADA
Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice); 800-514-0383 (TTY). Specialists are
available Monday through Friday from 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM (Eastern Time),
except on Thursday when the hours are 12:30 PM until 5:30 PM.
are also available to present to conferences and training sessions through the
ADA Speakers Bureau.
Government Grants ADA Compliance
Responding to concerns from pool industry
experts and a hotel/ lodging industry coalition, the White House issued
a 60-day extension for compliance with requirements under the Americans
with Disabilities Act.
The extension was granted March 15 (the date set as the original
deadline), two days after Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) introduced a bill
which would prevent enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act
relative to commercial pools and spas. Pool operators now have until May
15, 2012 to comply, but the time could be extended further.
According to a statement from the Department of Justice, “The department
will also publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with a 15-day comment
period on a possible six-month extension in order to allow additional
time to address misunderstandings regarding compliance with these ADA
While operators now have more time to meet the requirements, pool
industry experts say the extension does not address the larger concerns
raised when the DOJ issued an interpretation of the ADA Act restricting
use of portable lifts.
The ruling states that ADA Title III facilities (including hotels,
motels nonprofits, swim clubs and other such facilities) may use
portable lifts that meet the 2010 standards only if a fixed lift is not
For Title II (municipal) facilities, the DOJ said sharing a portable
lift between multiple pools is not permitted unless it would result in
undue burdens to provide equipment at each one. Further, the DOJ said
portable lifts must be available and operable during all hours that the
pool is open to the public.
An alliance of aquatics organizations and manufacturers recently sent a
letter to the DOJ requesting that the agency reconsider the
interpretation, but as of press time there had been no response said New
York attorney Steven Getzoff. He is representing the group, which
Association of Pool and Spa Professionals,
Swimming Pool Foundation,
Aqua Creek Products.
“We’ve been involved in the process from the get
go and nowhere was it ever suggested that lifts should be fixed
elements,” said John Caden. “As industry we don’t agree with [the DOJ
interpretation]. It has a lot of disadvantages.”