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Pool Rules

As first appeared in the IACT ACTIONLINES Magazine

The Department of Justice published revised regulations for Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 on September 15, 2010. The 2010 Standards set minimum requirements for newly designed and constructed or altered State and local government facilities, including, among many other things, public swimming pools, which begin construction or are altered after March 12, 2012. With the summer pool season upon us, it is a good time to review and plan ahead for any new construction or planned alteration to public swimming pools.

As stated above, only “newly designed and constructed or altered” swimming pools need to comply with the exacting regulations. In determining the extent of necessary ADA compliance, an “alteration” is a change to a place of public accommodation that affects or could affect the usability of the accommodation. Alterations include, but are not limited to, remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation, or reconstruction. Normal maintenance, or changes to mechanical or electrical systems, are not alterations unless they affect the usability of the accommodation. With respect to public swimming pools, changes to the filtration and chlorination systems, repainting the interior, and/or general maintenance of the pool are not alterations. However, it is likely that the addition of stairs or any pool expansion, among many other things, would be an alteration – triggering compliance under the regulations for the entire pool (not just the altered area).

The key issue for swimming pools compliance under the 2010 Standards is “accessible means of entry.” Per the Standards, at least two accessible means of entry shall be provided for swimming pools. At least one of the two accessible means of entry must be in the form of a sloped entry or chair lift. The other accessible means of entry may be in the form of another sloped entry, another chair lift, transfer walls, transfer systems or stairs. Where a swimming pool has less than 300 linear feet of swimming pool wall, no more than one accessible means of entry is required. In such an instance, the single accessible means of entry must be in the form of a sloped entry or chair lift.

When determining the qualifying linear feet of swimming pool wall, pool walls at diving areas and areas along pool walls where there is no pool entry because of landscaping or adjacent structures are to be counted toward the applicable 300 feet.

Wave action pools, leisure rivers, sand bottom pools, and other pools where user access is limited to one area are also only required to have only one accessible means of entry – in the form of a sloped entry, chair lift, or transfer system. Wading pools (which include “Kiddie Pools”) are required to have at least one accessible means of access in the form of a sloped entry. Spas (“Hot Tubs”) are also required to have at least one accessible means of access, in the form of a chair lift, transfer wall, or transfer system. If more than one spa is available, no more than five percent (5%), but no fewer than one, spa in the cluster shall be required to have the accessible means of access.

It is recommended, but not required, that where two accessible means of entry are required, or otherwise provided, the means of entry should be in different forms and in different areas of the pool. The 2010 Standards note that “[p]roviding different means of access will better serve the varying needs of people with disabilities in getting into and out of a swimming pool.”

The specifics of each accessible means of entry are set forth in the technical guidance of the 2010 Standards. Sloped entries are not to be steeper than 1:20 and shall continue into the pool to a depth of 24 inches minimum and 30 inches maximum and end with a landing space of at least 60 inches. The surface of a sloped entry need not be slip resistant, but the sloped entry must be supported by at least two handrails, except for sloped entries to a wading pool (“Kiddie Pools”) where no handrails are required.

Chair lifts are provided in a variety of ways, ranging from sling seats to molded seating lifts. Chair lifts are to be located where the water level does not exceed 48 inches (if the entire pool depth is greater than 48 inches, chair lifts are not allowed). The regulations require that appropriate clear deck space (38”x48” with no more than a 1:48 slope), seat dimensions (16” wide), footrests, ,lifting capacity (300 lbs.), and ease of operation (unassisted operation from the deck and water level) be present for each chair lift. It is recommended, but not required by the 2010 Standards, that chair lifts have seat backs, armrests, head rests, seat belts and additional leg supports to enhance accessibility and better accommodate people with a wide range of disabilities.

Transfer walls are to be 16 inches minimum and 19 inches maximum from the base of the pool deck, supported by appropriate grab bars, allowing disabled individuals each transfer access into the water. The transfer wall itself shall be at least 12-16 inches in depth and at least 60 inches in length, abutting a appropriate 38”x48” clear deck space. The transfer walls must have rounded edges for ease and comfort.

Transfer systems allow for tiered “transfer platforms” (at least 19”x24”) ending with a 60 inch landing area and supported by grab bars for a slow transfer into the water. The transfer platform “stepping” shall be 8 inches (minimized if possible) and shall extend below the stationary water level to a depth of at least 18 inches. The transfer system walls must be rounded and the grab bars on a transfer system must be 4”-6” off the surface.

Finally, pool stairs must comply with the standard technical requirements for stairways under the 2010 Standards. The stairs must be uniform with a 4”-7” riser and at least 11” deep. The stairs must be supported by handrails 20”-24” above the surface.

As with any ADA accessibility compliance issue, proper planning and construction is key. Each accessibility issue should be examined to allow for the greatest amount of access and integration. Compliance is mandatory – proper planning allows compliance to be on your schedule, at your budget, and under your analysis.

  • Partner

    Andy is the Chair of the Labor & Employment Practice Group. Working exclusively in the areas of labor and employment law, Andy provides advice, counsel and litigation defense to employers in all areas of employment law, including ...



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