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Swimming Pool, Wading Pool, and Spa Accessibility
The swimming pool, wading pool, and spa guidelines that are now part of the ADA law are virtually the same for both Public Entities (Title II) and Public Accommodations (Title III) facilities. They stipulate that any swimming pool with under 300 linear feet of pool wall must provide one means of access, and that means must be either a pool lift or a sloped entry. In addition, any pool that has over 300 linear feet of pool wall must provide two means of access, which can be any of the five designated means of access: pool lifts, sloped entries, transfer walls, transfer systems, or accessible pool stairs. The criteria that each of these means of access must meet can be found in chapter 10, section 1009 of the revised ADA guidelines. Wading pools must have one means of entry and that must be a sloped entry. Spas, both in-ground and portable, also must
have one means of entry, which can be either a lift, transfer wall, or transfer system. The specific requirements that swimming pools, wading pools and spas must meet can be found in chapter 2, section 242 of the revised ADA guidelines.
There are some exceptions from the accessibility guidelines. Title II facilities can be excluded if they can prove that modifications would significantly alter the historic nature of the building. They could also be excused if they could demonstrate that making such modifications would create undue financial hardship for the facility. Title III facilities can be excluded if they can demonstrate that reasonable accommodations are not readily achievable. However, the Department of Justice has made it very clear that, given the flexibility and cost of a pool lift, it would be very difficult for any entity to escape their responsibility to provide access to a swimming pool.
ADA regulations are enforced directly and indirectly. Most direct enforcement is a result of civil lawsuits initiated by a plaintiff who sues for non-compliance. If the plaintiff prevails, the court usually issues a court order that requires the defendant to remedy the violation, and attorney’s fees for the plaintiff. There are generally no monetary awards provided to the victorious plaintiff.
The ADA is also enforced indirectly by requiring compliance prior to receiving licenses, certifications, or grants from prevailing authorities. For example, prior to a local government receiving a federal grant, it must provide proof of compliance with a wide array of regulations ranging from environmental mandates to equal opportunity programs to ADA compliance. In addition, in most localities, any new construction or building modification will not receive a certificate of occupancy without meeting all relevant ADA requirements. Many states will adopt the latest guidelines into their state or local building codes.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – what you, your business and your clients need to know in order to be compliant.
Click here to download the printable version of this Q&A and its addendum
- What sections of ADA apply to swimming pools, wading pools and spas?
- Title II (Public Industry) – Title II prohibits disability discrimination by all public entities at the local and state levels. Examples of Title II entities include school districts, municipalities, cities, and counties.
- Title III (Private Industry) – Title III prohibits disability discrimination by any place of public accommodation (commercial facilities). Examples of Title III entities include a place of recreation, a place of education, and a place of lodging. More information on what constitutes a public accommodation will be forthcoming in a separate document.
- What are the permitted means of access? Pool lifts, sloped entries (ramps), transfer walls, transfer systems, or stairs. The criteria that each of these means of access must meet can be found in chapter 10, section 1009, of the revised ADA guidelines, a link can be found on the FSPA website. What type of means of access that must be used and how many means of access required, depend on the
- What are the swimming pool specific requirements? Both Title II and III entities are required to provide “accessible means of entry for pools.” Larger pools (greater than 300 linear feet of pool wall) require at least two means of access and smaller pools (less than 300 linear feet of pool wall) require at least one means of access. When providing only one means of access, it must either be a pool lift or sloped entry (ramp). Wave action pools, leisure rivers, sand bottom pools, and other pools where user access is limited to one area are not required to have more than one means of access provided that means is either a pool lift, a sloped entry, or a transfer system. Catch pools that have a catch pool edge on an accessible route are not required to provide a means of access.
- *Note: 1) The ADA recommends that when using more than one means of access, the means be different, i.e., a lift and a transfer wall, and be provided in different locations in the pool. 2) Pool walls at diving areas and areas along pool walls where there is no pool entry because of landscaping or adjacent structures are still to be counted when determining the linear feet of pool wall.
- What are the wading pool specific requirements? Both Title II and III entities are required to provide “accessible means of entry for wading pools.” Wading pools must have at least one means of access and that means must be a sloped entry (ramp). The sloped entry must extend to the deepest part of the wading pool, but it is not required to provide handrails.
- What are the spa specific requirements and how does the ADA apply to portable spas/hot tubs? The ADA does not distinguish between in-ground and portable spas. Both Title II and III entities that have any type of spa, in-ground or portable, are required to provide at least one “accessible means of entry.” The means of access can either be a lift, transfer wall, or transfer system. When spas are provided in a cluster (adjacent to each other) only one spa must provide a means of access. However, portable spas are not allowed in commercial facilities in Florida, per 64E-9, F.A.C.
- Are there service requirements for ADA equipment? Yes, mandated features must be maintained in working order. The regulations provide a “Maintenance of Accessible Features” provision which states that “a public accommodation shall maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.”
- How will these requirements be enforced? Enforcement will vary from state to state, but does not change the fact this is the law. Direct action against noncompliant facilities may be taken by local building or health officials enforcing state or health building codes that reference the new guidelines. Individuals may also file civil lawsuits against noncompliant facilities. Indirect enforcement can occur
when a local government becomes ineligible for a federal grant unless all facilities are in compliance.
(the addendum is additional Q&A's that are not listed here, please read!)