Owners and managers of swimming pools at hotels, city recreation centers and public parks are scrambling to install mechanical chair lifts to comply with new federal requirements that all public pools be accessible to disabled swimmers.
Some hotels fear the cost of the equipment or fines for noncompliance could put them out of business, and an industry lobbyist says others may close their pools this summer if they can’t upgrade in time, though the government can offer more time to those having trouble paying for it. Swimmers with disabilities say the changes are overdue.
Changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2010 say pools must be upgraded with chair lifts, essentially mini cranes that move wheelchair users into the water. The initial deadline was March 16, but confusion over the details and pool owners’ insistence for more time caused the Justice Department to give them until May 21.
The law doesn’t affect private clubs or pools owned by neighborhood associations that aren’t open to the public.
It’s a massive and expensive undertaking. The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals says its research shows that between 235,000 and 310,000 pools require the upgrade. Manufacturers estimate the lifts run $3,500 to $6,500, and installation can double those costs. Altogether, owners could face combined costs exceeding $1 billion.