New ADA Requirements May Affect Building's Pools
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to “public places” and not to private communities. However, if your building allows public use of its swimming pool or other facilities, you may be subject to the ADA and its most recent revisions.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice issued final regulations revising Title II and III of the ADA, including the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The revised regulations will take effect March 15, 2011, and compliance must be achieved by March 15, 2012.
Under the revised regulations, in addition to buildings that allow public use of their facilities, the changes now provide that properties that operate like hotels are subject to Title III of the ADA. Therefore, if your building offers units for short-term use, this may now make the building pool subject to the ADA.
ADA regulations are enforced directly and indirectly. Most direct enforcement is a result of civil lawsuits initiated by an individual who sues for noncompliance. If the individual prevails, the court usually issues a court order that requires the defendant to remedy the violation and to reimburse the individual for his attorney's fees. There are generally no monetary awards provided to the victorious individual.
The ADA is also enforced indirectly by requiring compliance prior to receiving licenses, certifications, or grants from prevailing authorities. For example, in New York City, any new construction or building modification will not receive a certificate of occupancy without meeting all relevant ADA requirements. And the latest guidelines are likely to be adopted into state or local building codes.
Does Your Building Pool Have to Comply?
Entities affected by the 2010 revised regulations generally fall under either Title II or Title III of the ADA. Title II impacts commercial facilities, whereas Title III affects private entities. Title III outlines regulations for any private entity or residential dwelling, such as a private residence, an apartment complex, a condominium, or a community association.
As mentioned before, the ADA does not affect any type of private building. However, if your building operates an element of public accommodation within the premises, this element would be subject to ADA regulations. Also, the building will be deemed a place of public accommodation, and therefore subject to the ADA, when it “affects commerce” and is “open to the public.” Any exchange of money is likely to be found to “affect commerce.”
Here are some examples of situations where a building would fall under ADA regulations with respect to swimming pools:
- You sell memberships to your swimming facilities. This situation would be considered providing a public accommodation.
- The pool is used for swimming competitions that are open to competitors from outside the building. This situation would also be considered offering a public accommodation.
- An apartment building actively rents out a portion of its apartments on a short-term basis, including advertising, taking reservations over the phone, and providing either meals or housekeeping services. In this instance, the building would be considered a hotel.
Specific Compliance Requirements
The swimming pool 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 pool with under 300 linear feet of pool wall must provide one means of access, and that means it 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, one of which must be either a pool lift or sloped entry.
The second means of access for large pools can be any of the five designated means of access, which are: pool lifts, sloped entries, transfer walls, transfer systems, or accessible pool stairs. A pool lift consists of a mechanized chair that lifts a seated disabled person and places him in the pool. And a transfer wall is a wall along an accessible route that allows a person to leave a mobility device and transfer onto the wall and then into a pool or spa.
The criteria that each of these means of access must meet can be found in chapter 10, section 1009 of the revised ADA guidelines. For more information you can visit the official online version of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design at www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm.