DOJ Extends ADA Compliance Date for Pools and Spas

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DOJ delays disability compliance date for public pools, spas.

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In a decision applauded yesterday by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently pushed back to May 2012 the date by which owners or operators of pools and spas must comply with new disability accesss standards. At the same time, the DOJ also released a notice of proposed rulemaking that would push the compliance deadline back still further to September 2012.

In 2010, the DOJ had acted under the Americans with Disabilities Act to create a set of Standards for Accessible Design for, among other things, existing and future pools and spas used in public accommodations and commercial and government-owned facilities.

Under the 2010 standards, existing pool owners are required to remove architectural access barriers if doing so is “readily achievable,” meaning that the modification “can be carried out without much difficulty or expense.” For example, a hotel might install a pool lift which meets the requirements for such devices as outlined in the 2010 Standards, if doing so is financially feasible.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH & LA) expressed confusion about what commercial entities are required to do to comply with the 2010 standards, given the lack of bright line rules concerning how significant improvements need to be and when a business’s financial resources are deemed ample enough to activate the modification requirement.  The group also raised concerns about the safety of some access devices that the standards purportedly would encourage facilities to install.

The DOJ responded to these concerns by noting that the lack of bright line rules was intentional given the varied circumstances businesses find themselves in. The DOJ suggested that businesses without the resources to comply should create implementation plans. It further noted that it knew of no evidence to warrant safety concerns about access tools.

The 2010 standards, which new pools built after March 15th still must meet, mandate that “large” pools (greater than 300 feet) have at least two accessible entry points, such as fixed pool lifts or sloped entries, while “small” pools are required to have at least one.