New(er) ADA pool regulations cause a stir

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Owners of newly constructed or refitted pools were supposed to increase handicap accessibility to their pools by Jan. 31, 2013, according to recent changes under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

However, owners of existing pools, including motel, hotel, recreational center and fitness center owners, are not expected to follow the design changes because retrofitting pools with the new standards is costly. Only pools under construction or that will be constructed need to heed the new regulations.

According to an ADA release, these standards “set minimum requirements for making swimming pools, wading pools, and spas (pools) accessible. Newly constructed and altered pools must meet these requirements. … Public accommodations must bring existing pools into compliance with the 2010 standards to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so.”

The new standards were passed in 2010, but the deadline for compliance was extended to January 2013 to allow more affected pool owners to comply. The changes of the law affect pool owners such as motel/hotel owners, recreational center owners, fitness centers, etc.

Lance Madigan, the public information officer at the Utah County Health Department, said the lack of retrofitted compliance is expected under certain laws.

“ADA compliance is one of those things that is supposed to be built-in when pools or facilities or buildings are designed in the first place,” Madigan said. “So when rules come along and they change them, then that becomes a problem because there’s not really a specific agency that goes back (to fix or enforce that).”

This is legal under grandfathering laws, which allow for old rules to still apply to old situations.

“For older pools that have been around for a long time. … They kind of fall into the grandfathering laws as far as most cities are concerned and so they don’t start to address new requirements,” said Madigan.

The new standards focus on providing a readily available entry to the pool for handicapped people such as a pool lift or sloped entry.

Jennifer Schofield, a BYU graduate student who is in a wheelchair, said that swimming is still uncomfortable regardless of ease of entryway.

“It’s slippery in the locker room beforehand. It’s a hassle,” she said.

And since Schofield only goes swimming with friends, she has never noticed the need for easier entry.

I mean, there are (people) that will help me get in and out of the pool, I’ve gone swimming with my ward a couple times, and … people just help me in and help me out.”

Junior Fevanga, an intern at BYU’s Accessibility Center who is also in a wheelchair, said he just jumps into pools, but he still think the design changes are good.

“I know for me (pool lifts) don’t really work,” Fevanga said, “but I know other people would like to have that just to be more safe.”

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