Recently a woman who uses a wheelchair contacted me, because she would like to start swimming in one of my facilities to train for a triathlon. After she contacted me, I quickly set out to to ensure my staff was trained on the proper use of the lift at the facility she wished to swim. The lift at this facility had not been used since I began working at the University in August of 2009, and although I knew how to use the lift, I had never actually used it. It is a standard Hoyer lift. After some investigation, I found that our lift is not ADA compliant, and is most likely over 30 years old. I quickly became uncomfortable with the thought of using this outdated lift, and being that I am technically the director of aquatics AND safety, I brought it to the attention of my supervisors. I also found out what kind of lift I would need to be compliant, got three quotes from suppliers and found the money in my budget for the lift. I was told today that we were going to "wait on this" for what looks like 2-4 years. I find this to be an unacceptable answer, but I'd like to know how others feel about it. Do I need to comply? Is not spending $5,000 worth the risk of someone being injured or embarrassed by the awkward lift?

Thank you for reading this. I will admit I do not have a lot of experience working with accessibility issues, but I would like my facilities to be accessible to the widest range of people possible as well as comply with regulations and standards.

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Tags: ADA, accessibility, disabilities, disability, lifts

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Comment by Carol Poole on April 7, 2010 at 8:55am
Thanks for all of the information Joel! Our facility is quite old-circa 1960's. It is a typical 8 lane, 25 yard lap pool with an average depth of 5 feet, and it is under the 300 foot perimeter guidelines. I agree with you that the risk of having to do battle with judges and lawyers is not worth saving the money for a new lift, but ultimately it is not my decision. I will present this information to the decision makers and hope they agree.
Comment by Joel Roderick on April 7, 2010 at 6:40am
Carol,
Could you give us a little more information about the type of pool your facility has. Size, shape, depth. When was the facility built? If your facility is older, the standards may not apply.

Technically speaking, the accessibility standards for pools are not yet enforceable. The rules seem to be finalized, but are not yet incorporated into the DOJ standards.

See this link:
http://www.access-board.gov/recreation/final.htm

With that said, everyone designing new pools (that I am aware of) are treating these as though they are enforceable and are following them.

The main issue is that while the Access Board writes the standards, the Department of Justice enforces them. This means judges and lawyers are involved. The Access Board does not offer interpretation of the standards. In the end, this pretty much leaves things up to a judge, precedent, and lawyers.

You may never have an issue at your facility unless a person files a complaint. The DOJ does do audits, but the risk of that happening is probably small unless they decide to start really cracking down. I have heard of them going into certain regions of the country and doing audits.

So, I would say you are opening yourself up to some risk. While these rules aren't technically enforceable, they are out there. Even if you could defend yourself and win, do you want to even enter the battle?

With all that said, here is a nice overview of the standards. You may want to verify that your pool has a perimeter of less than 300 feet, otherwise you would need two accessible means to enter the pool.
http://www.access-board.gov/recreation/guides/pools.htm

Hope this helps!

Joel Roderick
www.aquaticexcellence.com

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