Ms. Rose

ADA Compliance

Is Your Pool or Water Feature ADA Compliant?

By Clara Rose, President & Creative Director, Creative Alliance

The March 2012 deadline for the new ADA regulations came and went; most compliance changes were accepted as necessary and reasonable. The exception seems to have been the changes for water features, which launched a massive response in the industry.

As the deadline approached, the uproar of the hospitality industry over the water feature lift requirements prompted the Department of Justice to grant a 60 day extension for compliance on that particular regulation. Additionally they published a notice of proposed rulemaking with a 15-day comment period on the possibility of a longer extension to allow time to address misunderstandings regarding compliance with the new requirements.

Despite an outcry from the ADA community stating that facilities have already had two years to come into compliance; the Department of justice said:

"After carefully considering all of these factors, including the unique burden that an additional postponement would impose on individuals with disabilities, the department has concluded that a further extension of the compliance date is warranted."

The good news is - properties are not expected to become ADA compliant overnight; rather, they are encouraged to evaluate their facilities and create long-term plans for barrier removal and compliance.

The mission and purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to ensure that those guests with different abilities have equal access to the same options as other guests; this includes the water features at a place of public accommodations. The goal of the Department of Justice is to ensure that everyone - regardless of their different abilities - has an equal opportunity to enjoy services and facilities… not to cause distress or hardship to businesses.

Summary of ADA Changes

While this list in not intended to be all inclusive, here are a few features that have new changes - which affect a majority of hospitality properties. For those interested in more information, the corresponding sections are included for research purposes.

• Golf facilities (Sections 238, 1006 and sections 239, 1007 for miniature golf)

• Exercise equipment (Sections 206, 236, 1004)

• Play areas (Sections 240, 1008)

• Saunas and Steam Rooms (Sections 241, 612)

• Recreational Boating Facilities (Sections 235, 1003)

• Fishing Piers and Platforms (Sections 237, 1005)

• Amusement Rides (Sections 234, 1002)

• Water Features (Sections 242, 1009)

Current Hot Topic

Of course the conversation continues to circle back to the current hot topic - water features. The hospitality industry was waiting anxiously on the ruling about the six month compliance extension but now the department of Justice has granted a "stay of execution" on non-compliance for water features at places of public accommodations and the industry is left to their own devices regarding compliance.

Water Features (Sections 242, 1009); Pools, wading pools and spas.

  1. Water features are required to have an accessible means of entry and exit for those with different abilities. Most commonly this is a lift that makes it possible for those using a mobility device to access the pool or spa, without assistance.

  2. If a property has two of the same water features, such as two outdoor pools, one must be accessible by means of a lift or sloped entry and a transfer wall, transfer system or pool chair.

  3. If one water feature is located inside the facility while the other is an exterior water feature - BOTH must meet the access requirements. Remember, it is about having the same options for guests with different abilities as other guests.

  4. Portable lifts ARE allowed but they must be fixed in place at the water feature while the water feature is open to guests.

  5. Water features are not permitted to share one lift unless they are located in such a way that the lift does not need to be repositioned or relocated by the staff.

Saunas and Steam Rooms (Sections 241, 612); while technically not considered a water feature, saunas and steam rooms are often located adjacent to water feature areas and share restrooms and changing rooms.

  1. Accessible routes into saunas and steam rooms are required, this includes accessible path of travel to restrooms and changing rooms.

  2. Adequate turning space and doors that do not swing into the clear floor space ensure access for those using a mobility device.

  3. If benches are provided, an accessible bench must be available as well. A bench that folds out of the way when not in use is acceptable.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently conducted a webinar in an effort to clear up any confusion about the new water feature regulations. They addressed how the pool access provisions apply to the existing pools of public accommodation entities subject to title II of the ADA. The webinar is scheduled to be archived and available for rebroadcast, visit their website www.ADA.gov for more information.

Extension Granted

With the recent ADA Compliance extension granted by the Department of Justice, the deadline for installation of water feature lifts have been has been pushed out until January 31, 2013. While this short reprieve has created a collective sigh of relief in the hospitality industry, it should not give license to complacency. It is almost certain that there will be very little leniency for those not compliant by this new deadline. During this compliance extension, the department of Justice has announced that it will not enforce the fixed elements provision in the 2010 standards against those owners who purchased otherwise compliant portable lifts prior to March 15, 2012, as long as those owners keep the lifts in place for use and operational during all times that the water feature is open to guest.

With almost 1,000 new technical regulations to read and understand; these dry and wordy regulations can be somewhat overwhelming. Thankfully, the Department of Justice (DOJ) offers a technical assistance program that provides free information and technical assistance. The DOJ offers a full range of publications to explain the laws, including a series of question and answer publications. Be aware that unless noted, the publications currently available on the ADA web site have not yet been updated to reflect the newest changes.

New Technical Assistance Documents Available

The Department of Justice has released a new technical assistance document regarding the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to water feature at places of public accommodations. This document, "Questions & Answers: Accessibility Requirements for Existing Pools at Hotels and Other Public Accommodations" is available on the ADA.gov website, in PDF format.

Also released was an updated version of the "ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Accessible Pools - Accessible Means of Entry and Exit." This document is available on the ADA.gov website as well.

These two documents address common questions about accessibility requirements for existing water features. Both documents were issued as part of the department's technical assistance efforts to assist businesses in understanding their obligations under the ADA.

As with most endeavors, a solid plan of action makes any daunting task seem much more achievable. Having an understanding of any deficiencies through an ADA Compliance Survey from a qualified ADA Compliance Specialist, is a reasonable place to start when creating a compliance plan. The amount of remediation necessary and the associated costs, will of course determine if there is a need for a phased plan.
An ADA Compliance Specialist can also assist with the creation of a compliance binder, which documents compliance issues and scheduled remediation. A binder shows good faith that compliance is taken seriously and that there is a plan to bring the property into compliance.

For additional information about the obligations of public accommodations under the ADA, contact the Justice Department's toll free ADA information line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTD) or visit the ADA website at www.ada.gov.

Clara Rose is the founder of Creative Alliance and co-founder of Nationwide Compliance Alliance. She believes that business success is not accidental, merely the implementation of a sound strategy and the correct tools. Ms. Rose finds great reward in equipping entrepreneurs and business owners with the tools and pieces for business success. As a professional speaker, trainer and author; Clara works with teams to help them create a culture of understanding and sensitivity in the workplace and equips professionals with tools and insights. Additionally, she speaks and writes about the different forms of communication that are an integral part of business life with Customers, Colleagues and Co-workers. Ms. Rose can be contacted at 941-284-8640 or Clara@ClaraRose.com Extended Bio...

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