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Swimming Pools and The New ADA

publication date: Jan 4, 2012
author/source: Vinh Nguyen , HospitalityLawyer.com
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Swimming Pools and The New ADA
Guest Blogger: Vinh Nguyen
Posted: December 8, 2011

Due to the vast number of inquiries we have received regarding the new ADA requirements and hotel swimming pools, we have asked Vinh Nguyen, an attorney with the Southwest ADA Center to draft a brief blog post to clarify hotelier obligations.  In the coming months, we will be addressing additional questions about the new ADA law.

Read Vinh's take on the new ADA mandates below... 

Vinh NguyenOn March 15, 2012, the new 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design will become mandatory. Here at the Southwest ADA Center, we have received a barrage of calls from hotel and motel owners about how this new standard will affect their swimming pools. Numerous vendors have approached them insisting that they must install pool lifts by this date so that their swimming pools are accessible to patrons with disabilities who may need them. The owners are concerned due to budget constraints and want clarification on their obligations.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) which enforces the ADA expects hotels and motels to modify existing swimming pools to comply with the new standards to the extent that is readily achievable. For swimming pools that are less than 300 linear feet, at least one means of accessible entry is required. For pools that are longer than 300 feet, at least two means must be provided. For all swimming pools, at least one accessible means of entry must be either a sloped entry or through a pool lift.

I am not familiar with the costs of construction or pool lifts, but I suspect that pool lifts are cheaper to install than renovating the pool to provide an accessible sloped entry. Either way is going to be expensive, and the smaller lodging owners may have difficulty meeting that cost in a weaker economy. Remember that the ADA requires owners to remove barriers only to the extent that is readily achievable. Readily achievable is defined as being “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense,” considering the nature and cost of the barrier removal and the overall resources of the hospitality entity. So for hospitality entities that have the resources to make the necessary modifications, yes; their pools must be up to code after March 15, 2012.

Hospitality entities that do not have the resources to modify their swimming pools up to the new standards by March 15, 2012, will not have to do so. However, what is not “readily achievable” today may be “readily achievable” in the future. Hospitality entities who can not afford the pool lift now must plan for its purchase and budget accordingly for the future. In the meantime, these entities must also explore other means to provide access to patrons with disabilities such as having a staff member providing entry assistance.

Vinh Nguyen is an attorney with the Southwest ADA Center, a federally-funded project that promotes compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through education. If you have a question about the ADA or serving patrons with disabilities, you may write him through his Center at swdbtac@ilru.org or call your regional ADA Center at 1-800-949-4232. Questions of common concern may be published through this blog. The information provided is intended solely as informal guidance and does not constitute legal advice.

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