Earlier this year the Justice Department put into place a mandate requiring hotels, fitness facilities and additional pool owning businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by installing fixed lifts. Initially the deadline was set for March 15th, however, after the industry refused to budge an extension was approved first until September and then it was recently announced the compliance deadline is now set for early 2013.
A key issue in the debate is what type of lift is required. Permanent equipment can cost upwards of $6,000 and require a full rebuild of the pool to install while other portable lifts are far less costly both in time and dollars. In addition, beyond simply having the equipment, pool operators need to properly train staff in knowing how to operate the lift and assist disabled pool users in a safe way.
Given the timing of the extension’s announcement, advocates for the disabled have become increasingly frustrated. They say the delay now means another swim season without lifts at most pools across the country. Advocates have also accused the hotel industry of having a long record of evading access rules for the disabled.
Rep. Jerold Nadler, D-N-Y, explains “They’ve been trying to duck it for 10 years and the agency keeps putting if odd, putting it off. Enough already.”
However, with so much confusion within the ruling, particularly about exemptions, new safety requirements and what exactly compliance means, there is concern about whether the affected industries will even be able to make the January 31st deadline in 2013.