Many not ready for new federal pool rules

Posted at 12:31 AM, May 15, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-15 00:31:56-04

(WTVR) Your local pool could be one of about a quarter-million across the country to have until today (May 15) to get right with new access rules from Uncle Sam. Chances are that a bunch of them aren’t going to make it.

The new strict Americans with Disabilities Act requirements call for expensive lifts at most public pools and hotels;  $3,000 to $5,000 each, plus installation. The other option is a much more expensive ramp.

Two months ago, the Department of Justice issued a two-month grace period to comply before they face lawsuits.

But even with that, many pool operators CBS 6 spoke with are still scrambling to get them installed in time for swim season.

Dan Quesenberry, park manager of Pocahontas State Park, says their new lift is scheduled to be installed Tuesday.

“There’s a huge backlog, depending on what kind of lift you’re trying to get,” Quesenberry said. “I can tell you, calling to check on our install for tomorrow, they’re saying it’s eight to 10 weeks to get one in.”

The park’s wading pool is already in compliance, and the pool they’re working on already had a lift, but it was one that users had to have help to operate.

Quesenberry, whose brother is a military veteran in a wheelchair, said the ADA-approved lifts may be more expensive, but they afford users more dignity.

The public Carter Park Pool in Ashland is not going to be compliant by opening day on May 26. They will open anyway while they work toward compliance.

Non-profit YMCA’s across the country have to comply.

“Several of the YMCAs branches are already in compliance or will be in the next few weeks,” said Charlotte Dean, communications director of the Greater Richmond YMCAs. “It’s great because it really reinforces us being open to all.”

The North Richmond Y is one of those waiting for installation. “We’re very excited about it,” said Marilyn Milio, director of that facility. “We have ordered a permanent lift to be installed the first two weeks of June.”

Richmond city pools are not compliant, but Recreation and Parks has ordered all the equipment, a spokeswoman said. They plan to be compliant when the pools open at the end of June.

Lift suppliers have a big-time backlog,  as do installers, which is why many pools aren’t ready.

Private pools limited to members and guests do not have to comply with the new rules. Neither do apartment complexes and condos that limit swimming to residents and guests.

But most hotels have to comply. And this is where it really gets sticky. Even spas have to have the gear. Opponents say many hotels don’t have lifeguards and the lifts could pose a hazard to children playing in the pool.

Installation is not cheap. In some cases, metal, masonry and electrical changes are required that can dwarf the cost of the lifts.

But many believe that the lifts will be a boon to the disabled and other wheelchair users who find the weightless environment of pools to be their best source of exercise.

For them to be able to get in and out of pools on their own will be a blessing, Milio said. “The independence is extremely important.”

Here’s a good link to spell out which pools are required to comply and how they must do so: