Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's Go Swimming!...Maybe - Accessible Pools in Public Places

Public Pools and the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines the rights of people with disabilities and forbids discrimination of any kind towards this group. In 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sought to apply this regulation to public entities that offer a pool or spa, such as hotels, by requiring them to make these amenities accessible. 2 ½ years later we are still waiting.

Apparently 2 years is not enough time to sort out what exactly the government means when it says “pool lift” or “sloped entry”. So no swimming for you if you’re unable to get yourself in and out of a pool and there's no one around to help you, buster!

Thanks to hotel lobbyists, such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), who pushed hard to extend the deadline for compliance set forth by the DOJ and Senator Jim DeMint (R) who introduced a bill to do just that right before the previous deadline of March 17, 2012, the NEW, new deadline is January 31, 2012. To some people, I guess as long as THEY are not affected, accessibility doesn’t matter too much. Official deadlines for when these public entities were supposed to be in compliance have been extended repeatedly since 2010 – at least a half dozen times – even though these businesses were well aware that they were obligated to make these changes.

"Reasons" Against Making Pools Accessible

Some hoteliers who oppose the DOJ requirements threatened to close down their pool entirely or to fill in their spas. BOOO-HOOOO! WAH-WAH-WAH! You sound like a bunch of crybabies – “If you make me do that then I just won’t have a pool for ANYBODY!” The image of a two year old stomping his feet with his arms crossed and his bottom lip pouting springs to mind. Fine by me; lose ALL your business if that makes you happy… Another argument made by the competent and crafty hoteliers is that installing a permanent lift will increase their liability during times when there is no lifeguard on duty. UHHHHH, hold on a minute. Are you saying that able-bodied folk NEVER go in swimming pools outside of posted hours? DAMN those insolent handicapped rejects! Why can’t they obey the rules like their astute counterparts? You know, the normal people!

Family Ties

Imagine going on a family vacation with your children and leaving one of your kids at home or pool side or in the hotel room because they were too big for you to lift in and out of the pool. Imagine if your husband or wife was a quadriplegic and had limited use of their arms and couldn't help you help them get into the pool. Imagine if it was YOU; watching from the sidelines or just not even going at all!  This does not sound fair. It sounds miserable, depressing, demoralizing. To be treated as less-than, unimportant. Am I taking this too far? Really? My daughter’s ability to be able to socialize and vacation with her parents and brother is directly related to whether or not we can get her wheelchair where we are going. Read about when we were on a family vacation and couldn't get pizza and ice cream. Saying to her, “You can’t go to there because your wheelchair doesn’t fit there” is the same as saying “You’re not important enough to make a change that can open up your world”. Literally.

Any one of us (yes, even YOU, dear reader) could BECOME disabled by an accident or fall, sickness or aging; just because you weren't BORN disabled doesn't mean you never WILL be!!


  1. Unfortunately, every profit making place of accommodation and many public places use every possible excuse, lobbyist and loophole to avaoid implementation of the law. We live on Cape Cod, MA; the center of tourism and a huge retirement sector or the state. Amazing the number of pools (majority) do not have permanent or portable pool lifts.
    Reminds me of my mother's funeral a few years ago...the good padre refused uo put in a ramp up the 15 stairs to the church. The accommodation was to have the pall bearers carry up my son in his wheelchair up the stairs. I'm not sure if the casket or the boy was carried up first...never stepped back into a church since!

    1. How sad...just goes to show how people of all types need to have their eyes opened, even those who are in service of the Lord. I hate to think that a bad experience with one priest would so negatively impact you but I do understand where you're coming from because I had my own traumatic experience.
      And I find it so odd that these businesses don't see that they could actually increase their bottom lines by making things accessible. Every time I see a commercial for a family vacation for Sandals I think about how I would go with my husband & kids if they had an adaptive program or fun stuff for people with disabilities. That's what I laughed when the hoteliers threatened to close down the pools if they were forced to install the permanent lifts---that would only bring DOWN their bottom lines!