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American with Disabilities Act and Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines Changes to ADA Compliance: On Friday, July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed final regulations revising the Department’s ADA regulations, including its ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These final rules will take effect March 15, 2011, and be required March 15, 2012. The Department of justice may enforce the ADA code under title III by obtaining civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation. Basics of ADA Accessibility: Installation Compliance: • Most swimming pools require two means of accessible entry, a spa usually requires only one. •

If a lift is chosen as a means of entry, the water at the point of entry must be less than 48" deep, there must be a three foot by four foot area of clear deck space with a slope no greater than 1:48.

The center of the seat must be 16" from the edge of the pool when loading.

Lift Compliance: • The lift must have a solid seat of at least sixteen inches in width, with a footrest and armrests that can move out of the way when transferring. •

The lift will transport a minimum of 300 lbs at the seat, and the seat will stop above the deck in the transfer position between 16" (min) and 19"(max) above the deck. The lift will submerge the seat at least 18" below the surface of the water to transfer into the pool.

The lift will be operable by the user from either the deck or water regardless of the position of the chair.

For the full listing of code visit: and:* RECREATION FACILITIES.

accessible swimming pools 1

What is ADA? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. Enforcement of ADA laws are carried out by the Department of Justice (DOJ).


Which parts of ADA are relevant for swimming pools? Title II (Public Industry)

Title III (Private Industry)

Title II prohibits disability discrimination by all public entities at the local and state levels. Examples of Title II entities would be: School Districts, Municipalities, Cities, and Counties.

Title III prohibits disability discrimination by any place of public accommodation (commercial facilities). Examples of Title III entities would be: Lodging, Recreations, Education, Transportation, Etc.


Are there service requirements for ADA equipment?


What are my S.R. Smith ADA compliant pool lift options?

Yes, there is a “Maintenance of Accessible Features” provision which states that “a public accommodation shall maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.”


Splash! (Removable)

aXs (Removable)

Pool lifts and sloped entries (ramps) are the required primary means of access for swimming pools. Additional means of access are recognized (i.e. Transfer Walls, Transfer Systems, Stairs) but only as secondary measures. Pool lifts and sloped entries may also be used to meet secondary means of access requirements.

means of access

Pool Lift


Primary (Secondary)

Swimming Pool >300 Linear Feet (2 means of access required 

Wave action, lazy river, and other pools where user entry is limited to one area


Are there other accessible elements that I should consider for my pool? MAC

RAILS Hand rails are required for sloped entries and also serve as a steadying influence around pool steps.

Copyright ® 2010 S.R. Smith. All rights reserved.

Sloped Entry

Swimming Pool <300 Linear Feet (1 means of access required)

Transfer Wall

Transfer System



Wading Pools

MAC’s (Mobile Aquatic Chairs) are essential for sloped entry use and can also serve as a interfacility user transportation device.

Both Title II and III entities are required to provide “accessible means of entry for pools”. Larger pools (>300 linear feet) require at least two means of access and smaller pools (<300 linear feet) require at least one means of access.

Permitted Means of Access

Find out which lift is best for you—Visit:


What are the swimming pool specific requirements?

What are the permitted means of access?

—1 must be a primary means)

PAL (Portable)



Where can I learn more about swimming pool accessibility?


I’m interested in talking to a pool lift expert.

Visit and register for accessibility updates or visit

Call 1-877-325-0768 or email us at: and we will contact you.

ADA Swimming Pool Accessibility The purpose of this document is to provide background material and clarification on issues relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act and, more specifically, the aspects of ADA that pertain to swimming pool accessibility.

Background Information What we commonly call ADA, was signed by President George Bush on July 26, 1990. The actual title of the document that President Bush signed and was passed by Congress is “An Act to establish a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability.” This Act was codified into law under Title 42, Chapter 136 of the Public Health and Welfare Statutes and is titled “Equal Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities.” This law is divided into five subparts or titles: Title I


Title II Public Entities (and public transportation)

standards applicable to facilities subject to title II or title III and that are consistent with the minimum guidelines issued by the Access Board.*

* The Architectural and Transportation

Barriers Compliance Board, which is more commonly called the Access Board, was originally established to develop and maintain accessibility guidelines for federally funded facilities under the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968. The passage of ADA expanded the Access Board’s responsibilities. The ADA requires the Access Board to ‘‘issue minimum guidelines that shall supplement the existing Minimum Guidelines and Requirements for Accessible Design to ensure that buildings and facilities are accessible to individuals with disabilities.”

Title III Public Accommodations (and Commercial Facilities) Title IV Telecommunications Title V Miscellaneous Provisions

The relevant sections of this law for our purposes are Titles II and Title III: Title II prohibits disability discrimination by all public entities at the local (i.e. school district, municipalities, and cities, county) and state levels. Public entities must comply with Title II regulations. These regulations cover access to all programs and services offered by the entity. Access includes physical access as described in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and program access that might be obstructed by discriminatory policies or procedures of the entity. Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services and facilities of any place of public accommodation. “Public accommodations” include, among other things, most places of lodging (such as inns and hotels) and recreation facilities. The ADA requires the Department of Justice to issue regulations that include enforceable accessibility

Title II Regulations are spelled out under 28 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 35, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services. Title III is defined under 28 CFR Part 36, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities. The original versions of these regulations were issued on July 26, 1991, and are generally referred to as the 1991 Standards. In conjunction with the publication of these regulations, the Access Board also issued the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) on the same date. These Guidelines are commonly referred to as ADAAG 1991 or the original ADAAG. On July 1, 2004, the Access Board released a revision to the original ADAAG, called ADAAG 2004. This revision was the culmination of a ten year effort to both address areas not covered in the original ADAAG and to eliminate inconsistencies in the original guidelines. Like any revision issued by the Access Board, ADAAG 2004 was effective only as a guidance document for the Department of Justice and had no legal bearing on the public until a final rule was issued adopting the revised ADA Standards. Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

On June 17, 2008, the Department of Justice issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) to formally adopt ADAAG 2004. This notice was followed by a public comment period which ended on August 17, 2008. After considering the public comments that followed the NPRM, the Department of Justice announced their final rule making, which formally adopted ADAAG 2004, on July 26, 2010. These revised regulations will take effect six months following their publication in the Federal Register. Compliance with these regulations will be required eighteen months after the date of publication. These revised regulations should be published prior to the end of 2010.

Swimming Pool Accessibility No accessibility guidelines were provided for swimming pools in the 1991 Standards. Facilities housing swimming pools were covered in the original guidelines and areas surrounding the pool, such as locker rooms, pathways, and the parking lot were required to be accessible. However, no regulations were in place that specifically addressed getting a person into and out of the pool. In 1994, the Access Board began to work on a major revision to the original ADAAG, primarily to address areas that were not included in the original guidelines. Recreational facilities in general and swimming pools in particular, were included in this revision. In June, 2003, the Access Board finalized and published accessibility guidelines for swimming pools. These guidelines were included in ADAAG 2004, and were adopted by the Department of Justice in 2010.

Swimming Pool Guidelines The swimming pool guidelines that are now part of the ADA law are virtually the same for both title II and title III facilities. They stipulate that any pool with under 300 linear feet of pool wall must provide one means of access, and that means must be either a pool lift or a sloped entry. In addition, any pool that has over 300 linear feet of pool wall must provide two means of access, one of which must be either a pool lift or sloped entry. The second means of access for large pools can be any of the five designated means of access which are: pool lifts, sloped entries, transfer walls, transfer systems, or accessible pool stairs.

E xclusions Under the general ADA regulations, there are stipulations for facilities that could excuse them from complying with accessibility guidelines. Title II facilities can be excluded if they can prove that providing modifications necessary to ensure accessibility would significantly alter the historic nature of the building. They could also be excused if they demonstrate that by making such modifications it would create undue financial hardship for the facility. Title III facilities can be excluded if they can demonstrate that reasonable accommodations are not readily achievable. These arguments, with respect to swimming pools for both title II and title III, were addressed by the Department of Justice in the NPRM that preceded the release of the final ruling. The review notes provided by the Department, as part of the final ruling, make it very clear that, given the flexibility and cost of a pool lift, it would be very difficult for any entity to escape their responsibility to provide access to a swimming pool.

Enforcement ADA regulations are enforced in ways that are both direct and indirect. Most direct enforcement is a result of civil lawsuits that are initiated by a plaintiff who sues an entity for non-compliance. There are generally no monetary awards provided to the victorious plaintiff, however, the court usually does provide injunctive relief, in the form of a court order that would require the defendant to remedy the violation, and attorney’s fees for the plaintiff. There is a network of “professional plaintiffs” who have made a career of initiating such lawsuits under the banner of disability advocacy. The ADA is also enforced indirectly by requiring compliance prior to receiving licensees, certifications, or grants from prevailing authorities. For example, prior to a local public entity receiving a federal grant, they must provide proof of compliance with a wide array of regulations ranging from environmental mandates to equal opportunity programs to ADA. In addition, in most municipalities, any new construction or building modification will not receive a certificate of occupancy without meeting all relevant ADA requirements. Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

California Builder’s Code (CBC) and the ADA Much has already been written discussing barrier removal requirements attached to the revised Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that was signed into law on July 26, 2010. With respect to swimming pools, the regulations are pretty much the same for everyone, unless you live in California. Besides complying with the provisions of the ADA, residents of California are also under the jurisdiction of the California Builder’s Code (CBC). Provisions of this code, in some cases, actually go beyond the requirements stipulated in the ADA.

8) Places of public display or collection (e.g., museums, libraries, galleries); 9) Places of recreation (e.g., parks, zoos, amusement parks); 10) Places of education (e.g., nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private schools); 11) Social service center establishments (e.g., day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies);

This paper will discuss how the CBC rules for swimming pools differ from the ADA.

12) Places of exercise or recreation (e.g., gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses).

Facilities Required to Provide Access

Noticeably absent from this list is any type of residential facility, including private homes, apartment complexes, condominiums, and home owner’s associations. While there are times when these types of facilities may fall under ADA jurisdiction, for the most part they are not required to provide access to swimming pools located on their premises.

The 2010 ADA revision established firm requirements for providing accessibility to both Title II (government owned entities) and Title III (privately owned public accommodations) facilities. Determining who is subject to ADA regulations is fairly clear with respect to Title III. Public Accommodations are those facilities who fall under any of the following twelve categories: 1)

Places of lodging (e.g., inns, hotels, motels) (except for owner-occupied establishments renting fewer than six rooms);


Establishments serving food or drink (e.g., restaurants and bars);

3) Places of exhibition or entertainment (e.g., motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls, stadiums); 4)

Places of public gathering (e.g., auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls);

5) Sales or rental establishments (e.g., bakeries, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centers); 6) Service establishments (e.g., laundromats, drycleaners, banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair services, funeral parlors, gas stations, offices of accountants or lawyers, pharmacies, insurance offices, professional offices of health care providers, hospitals); 7) Public transportation terminals, depots, or stations (not including facilities relating to air transportation);

The CBC establishes minimum requirements for public buildings within the State of California. A central theme that permeates this code is to ensure that barrier-free design is incorporated into all public facilities and that they are both accessible and usable by persons with disabilities. This includes swimming pools. The CBC applies to any non-private pool located in any of the following types of facilities: • commercial building • hotel, motel, resort • automobile and trailer park, automobile court, mobile home park • campground • apartment house, condominium, townhouse, homeowner association, club, community building • public or private school • gymnasium and health establishments Copyright © 2011 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

In California, a private pool is defined as any constructed pool, permanent or portable, which is intended for noncommercial use as a swimming pool by not more than three owner families and their guests.

Means of Access The 2010 ADA Regulations define five permitted means of access for swimming pools: • Swimming Pool Lifts • Sloped Entries • Transfer Walls • Transfer Systems

A public pool in California is any pool other than a private pool. Under CBC public pools in California that fall into this category must be accessible, and a mechanism to assist persons with disabilities in gaining entry into the pool and in exiting the pool shall be provided. This means that apartments, condos, and HOA’s within the State of California must provide access to their swimming pools, even though access would not be required under ADA regulations anywhere else in the country.

• Accessible Pool Stairs The CBC only mentions one means of access when requiring a mechanism to assist users to gain entry to a pool. “Such a mechanism may consist of a swimming pool lift device as long as the device meets all of the following criteria . . .” There is no mention of any type of access means other than a lift, although the language is sufficiently vague to leave the door open for other options. If another option is used, there is no CBC criteria for its operational characteristics, however, the ADA regulations can provide such guidance. The criteria for a swimming pool lift outlined by CBC is similar to the requirements specified by the ADA regulations, however, there are some differences. The following chart compares the respective requirements:




Water depth at location

48” maximum (1009.2.1)

36” minimum (1004B.4.4.5)

Seat location for transfer

Center line of seat shall be a minimum of 16” from the edge of the pool (1009.2.2)

Not mentioned

Clear Deck Space

36” x 48” from edge of seat extending forward from 12” from back of seat (1009.2.3)

Not mentioned

Seat height above deck in loading position

Designed to allow a stop at 16 inches minimum to 19 inches maximum (1009.2.4)

Not less than 17 inches and not more than 19 inches, inclusive of any cushioned surface that might be provided (1004B.

Seat width

16” minimum (1009.2.5)

Not specified

Footrests and arm rests

Footrest required, arm rest optional 1009.2.6)

Two arm rests required. (1004B. Footrests not specified


The lift shall be capable of unassisted operation from both the deck and water levels. (1009.2.7)

Be capable of unassisted operation from both the deck and water levels. (1004B.4.4.2) Copyright © 2011 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.




Submerged Depth

The lift shall be designed so that the seat will submerge to a water depth of 18 inches minimum below the stationary water level. (1009.2.8)

Lower the operator at least 18 inches (457 mm) below the surface of the water. (1004B.4.4.6)

Lifting capacity

300 pounds (1009.2.9)

300 pounds (1004B.4.4.4)

Seat Composition

Not Specified

Must be rigid. (1004B.

Back Support

Not Specified

The seat must have a back support that is at least 12 inches tall. (1004B.

Occupant Restraint

Not Specified

The seat must have an occupant restraint for use by the occupant of the seat. (1004B.


Not Specified

Be stable and not permit unintended movement when a person is getting into or out of the seat. (1004B.4.4.3)

Most pool lifts on the market that meet the ADA requirements will also comply with the criteria specified by the CBC, although those where arm rests are an option will need to be sure that this item is included. For more information on ADA regulations for swimming pools, please visit our web site,, or contact the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice at Copyright © 2011 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Understanding the Pool Lift Clear Deck Space Requirement (1009.2.3) Section 1009.2 of the most recent ADA legislation addresses the requirements for Pool Lifts. There are a host of requirements outlined in 1009.2 but one in particular can have an adverse impact on compliance: 1009.2.3 Clear Deck Space. This Clear Deck Space requirement states: On the side of the seat opposite the water, a clear deck space shall be provided parallel with the seat. The space shall be 36 inches (915 mm) wide minimum and shall extend forward 48 inches (1220 mm) from a line located 12 inches (305 mm) behind the rear edge of the seat. The clear deck space shall not have a slope not steeper than 1:48.1

inches of Clear Deck Space that is specified behind the rear edge of the seat provides an unobstructed area for transfer assistance if necessary. All S.R.Smith Pool Lifts meet the requirements of 1009.2.3 Pool Edge

36.00 12.00



pool deck PAL (Portable Aquatic Lift)

36” min.

Pool Edge


48” min.

36.00 12.00

Conforming Clear Deck Space


water pool deck

Splash! Lift

36” min.

Pool Edge



48” min.


Non-Conforming Clear Deck Space 48.00

aXs Lift

The Clear Deck Space requirement is designed to provide an unobstructed area next to the Pool Lift that will allow the user to easily and safely transfer from their wheelchair or other mobility device onto the lift. Additionally, the 12

Source: 1 DAstandards.htm#c10

Enhancing Aquatic Accessibility The basic framework for swimming pool accessibility is provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), but there is more that you can do to enhance access for your special needs customers.

Special Needs Customers In any business, understanding your customers is critical to success. If you are a facility seeking to provide an inclusive aquatic environment, it is important that you know your customers and understand their needs and challenges. The simplest and most direct route to understanding is to talk with your customers, either one-on-one or as a group. Ask them about their experience at your facility – How easy was it to get in/out of the pool? Quiz them on how they think access to your pool could be improved. In most instances you will receive feedback that is insightful and actionable. Additionally, look for new accessibility products to test in your facility and use these new approaches as a way to develop deeper relationships with your customers. Lastly, continually research and develop your accessibility knowledge so that you can help your facility stay at the forefront of inclusive aquatics.

Learn more about swimming pool accessiblity—Register for updates at

operator certification program take advantage of it. Additionally, staff should receive training on how to assist customers with special needs, especially those with significant disabilities. Contract with a local physical or occupational therapist who can instruct staff members on proper transfer and handling techniques. Also, consult with your facility’s risk management department for guidance on any restrictions in assisting customers with special needs.

Complementar y Products Enhance Accessibility Once you’ve complied with the basic requirements of ADA there are some other options you should consider as access enhancements. In most instances these are little things but they go a long way in helping to create a more inclusive aquatic environment.

Aquatic Wheelchairs Mobile Aquatic Chairs are essential if your facility is using a ramp, zero-depth entry or movable floor. Additionally, Mobile Aquatic Chairs support user independence by enabling self-powered travel within the pool environment. Most traditional wheelchairs are not designed for aquatic environments and can suffer potential damage when used consistently in a pool environment. When it comes to wheelchairs, it makes good sense to have a chair that’s built for your environment.

Educate and Train Your Staf f Having world class access options is only the first step in creating an inclusive aquatic environment. Having a knowledgeable and educated staff is also a very important piece of the puzzle. Your staff should be well trained on the accessibility equipment in your facility and be able to instruct and assist customers in the proper use of each of these options. Ask your accessibility equipment manufacturer or your pool service provider to perform operator training and if they have an

Mobile Aquatic Chair (MAC) Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Mobile Aquatic Chairs come in a range of materials (PVC, stainless steel, powder coated stainless steel) that offer different price and performance characteristics. PVC wheelchairs are relatively inexpensive, but usually have lower weight limits and are not designed for heavy use environments. Stainless steel wheelchairs have higher weight limits, are more durable but can have corrosion issues if not properly maintained and cared for. Powder coated, stainless steel chairs carry higher weight limits and offer added protection against corrosive elements. Additionally, stability is something that should also be considered. In most instances, when traversing a sloped ramp there is a tendency for the chair to pitch forward or angle back. In order to prevent this type of unwanted motion, look for a Mobile Aquatic Chair with additional stabilizer wheels. Seating is another important characteristic of Mobile Aquatic Chairs. Mesh seats are inexpensive but can be difficult for users to get in/out of and offer little stability. A molded seat provides a stabile platform that can be used for transfer support.

Handrails Railings and grab bars are essential support items around an aquatic facility, whether it’s in the pool, along the ramp, or in the locker room. There have been significant advancements in coatings over the last several years resulting in specialty coatings that resist corrosion. In addition to resisting corrosion, these specialty coatings also offer improved grip and extra stability. The special needs population in most instances will not have the same gripping power as a traditional customer which makes a wet handrail a potential challenge.

Several manufacturers make grip tape or sleeves that can be applied to installed handrails, but if you are having new rails installed, look to have them encased in one of these new vinyl coatings that offers enhanced grip and corrosion resistance.

WetTraction™ Grip

Stressless Finish

Sealing Cap

SealedSteel Hand Rails

Back-Up Batter y Lastly, if you have a battery powered lift it is always a good idea to have a spare back-up battery on the charger so you can limit lift downtime. Switching batteries on most electronic lifts is quick & easy.

Lift Battery Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Maintenance of Accessible Features Routine lift maintenance and cleaning are an important part of ensuring accessibility. Regular service helps prolong the life of your lift, supports daily operation and helps satisfy the ADA’s Maintenance of Accessible Features* provision.

Electronic Lif t Maintenance Electronic lifts are mechanical in nature and contain a motor & gears. Much like an automobile there is a basic level of maintenance required to ensure proper operation. By instituting the following maintenance practices you can ensure optimal lift performance. Activity

*Maintenance of Accessible Features The maintenance of accessible features provision of ADA states that “a public accommodation shall maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.”


Check/Charge battery

Test for normal operation

Inspect lift for damage

Clean lift and seat, rinse with fresh water

Wipe down (dry) lift after cleaning

Cover/Store after use


Spray/Lubricate all gears


Inspect all cable connections

Inspect frame, mast, arms, seat

Inspect counter weight stack (portable lifts only)

Clean battery connections with nylon scouring pad

Clean metallic surfaces with cleaner wax

Add an E x tra Layer of Protection Swimming pool chemicals, water and direct sunlight, when mixed together create a potentially corrosive environment for metallic based mechanical systems. This situation is particularly harsh in poorly ventilated indoor environments. The best way to guard against this potent combination of elements is to follow all lift maintenance guidelines, avoid storing your lift near pool chemicals and use a lift cover. Lift covers provide an extra layer of protection against the random splash of chemical infused water and the fading effects of direct sunlight.

Splash! Cover

aXs Cover PAL Cover Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Means of Access for Swimming Pools The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) identifies five means of access for swimming pools. Of these five, two are considered primary means of access: Pool Lifts and Sloped Entries. Facilities with swimming pools that have less than 300 linear feet of pool wall must use one of the primary means to provide access to their pools. Swimming pools that have more than 300 linear feet of pool wall must provide two means of access, at least one of which must be a primary means.

Primar y Means of Access The two primary means of access, as defined by ADAAG, are swimming pool lifts and sloped entries (including ramps).

wide and the lift must have a weight capacity of 300 pounds. Additionally, the lift must submerge the user a minimum of 18” below the water level and must be equipped with foot rests. There should be ample clear deck space around the lift to facilitate transfers and the distance from the top of the seat surface to the pool deck should be a minimum of 16 inches. Sloped entries must comply with ADAAG accessible route provisions. These provisions call for a minimum width of 36” and a maximum slope of 1:12 (1 foot of drop for every 12 feet of run). Sloped entries must extend to a depth of between 24” and 30” below the stationary water level. If the sloped entry is over 30 feet in length, an intermediate landing is required. Landings must be a minimum of 36 inches wide and 60 inches long. Sloped entries must have handrails on both sides. Facilities that use sloped entries are required to provide a mobile aquatic chair designed for pool access.

Secondar y Means of Access There are three approved secondary means of access: Transfer Walls, Transfer Systems and Pool Stairs. Secondary means can only be used on pools that already have a primary means of access in place. Additionally, primary means of access (pool lifts, sloped entries) also qualify as secondary means.

Pool Lifts

A transfer wall is a wall that allows a person to transfer from their wheelchair onto the pool wall and then into a pool or spa.

Sloped Entries

Pool lifts must be capable of independent operation by a person with a disability, and must be located where the water level is no deeper than 48 inches. Seats on pool lifts must be a minimum of 16 inches Transfer Wall Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Transfer systems consist of a transfer platform and a series of transfer steps that descend into the water. Users transfer from a wheelchair onto the platform, then down into the water using the transfer steps.

Access Planning Considerations When planning for swimming pool access, there are several important areas to consider before deciding which means of access to use: Location, Application (Commercial, Multi-Use, Competition, Therapy, etc), Clientele, Available Space, and Budget are all key considerations.

Pool Lif ts Pool lifts are the most flexible means of access. They come in a variety of shapes & sizes and offer a wide range of price points. ADA compliant pool lifts allow for independent operation by both ambulatory and non-ambulatory users. Pool lifts are generally easy to use. Transferring is straight forward and often facilitated by the lift’s ability to position the chair in a favorable position for the transfer. Both portable and removable pool lifts can be stored away when not needed, or at times when they may interfere with an activity, such as a swim meet or a day camp. Since pool lifts are mechanical pieces of equipment, they do require regular routine maintenance.* Installation of non-portable lifts (removable and fixed) is fairly simple, requiring only a deck anchor to be installed. Portable lifts require no physical installation.

Transfer System

*The ADA’s “Maintenance of Accessible Features” provision states that “a public accommodation shall maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.” Pool Stairs

Accessible pool stairs help provide balance and support for ambulatory users while transfering from the deck to the swimming pool. Since secondary means of access can only be used in the presence of a primary means, this report will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of pool lifts and sloped entries.

Sloped Entries Sloped entries provide a safe and easy way for ambulatory individuals to gain swimming pool access. Once installed, sloped entries are virtually maintenance free. This method of access does, however, require significant space adjacent to the pool. A sloped entry that brings the user into 30 inches of water will be a minimum of 30 feet Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

long and three feet wide. Ideally, this entry would be constructed off to the side of the main pool in order to prevent interference with swimming lanes. Construction costs for sloped entries can be substantial, with estimates ranging from $25,000â&#x20AC;&#x201D; $40,000, depending on the design of the ramp area. Besides the cost and space requirements, the main downside of sloped entries is that they do not

provide universal independent access. Select users who can transfer on and off of a pool lift, may not have the strength to push an aquatic wheelchair up the ramp following an in-pool aquatic exercise session. The following table illustrates the key points of difference between pool lifts and sloped entries:


Pool Lifts

Sloped Entries





None to simple

Major construction

Independent operation


Yes for ambulatory, no for non-ambulatory

Maintenance required


Generally, nothing beyond standard pool maintenance

Compatible with any pool?


Depends on available space

Requires a transfer


Yes for non-ambulatory, no for ambulatory

Requires an aquatic wheelchair



Sources: United States Access Board, ADA.Gov

For more information contact S.R.Smith at 1.877.325.0768 or email your questions to: Copyright Š 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Swimming Pool Lifts for Physical Therapy Programs One of the potential challenges faced by aquatic therapy providers is how to get the patient into the pool. A patient with compromised mobility may have difficulty negotiating traditional methods of pool access, such as ladders or stairs. One possible way to facilitate pool entry is via a sloped entry or ramp. Although this works well for ambulatory patients, it is a challenge for the nonambulatory. Additionally, sloped entries can be very expensive to install. A legal ramp must provide a 1:12 slope ratio; for every 1 foot of depth, there needs to be 12 feet of ramp. A ramp extending into a pool with a depth of 4 feet will need to be 48 feet long – not a realistic option for most therapy environments. Additionally, since the overall length of the ramp is in excess of 30 feet, the ramp must provide a landing that is a minimum of 5 feet in length. Depending on the type of sloped entry installation required, costs can range anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000. A simpler and more economical solution is to install a swimming pool lift. Pool lifts work on virtually any type of pool and can be used by almost anyone to gain access to the pool.

Pool Lif t Options There are several different kinds of swimming pool lifts available, providing facilities with options that fit a variety of programs and budget.

Electronic Lif ts Battery powered swimming pool lifts operate very much like hospital patient lifts. They use a 24 volt rechargeable battery to power an electronic actuator, which performs the lifting operation. Battery powered lifts can be completely portable, removable, or permanently installed. Removable lifts are mounted into a permanent deck anchor, but can be removed when not in use. Battery powered lifts feature rigid seats, can be independently operated, and meet all ADA guidelines for pool lifts.

Water Powered Lif ts Water powered lifts use the local water supply to perform the lifting operation. These lifts are connected to the water source by either a water

hose or a supply pipe. They feature a rigid seat, which facilitates transfers, and can be operated independently by the user. Water powered lifts are permanently mounted to the pool deck and generally meet ADA accessibility guidelines for swimming pool lifts.

Manual Lif ts Manually operated pool lifts are the least expensive. The lifting mechanism on this type of lift is a hydraulic cylinder. This type of lift requires operator assistance, which prohibits its use in public facilities that are subject to ADA. These lifts typically include a sling for the seat and are mounted into the pool deck.

Lif t Considerations There are many factors to consider when selecting a pool lift. The most obvious is the location of your program. In hospitals and private clinics, space is often the most important consideration. Be sure that the area where the lift is installed has ample room for both transfers and wheelchair storage. Depending on the profile of your patients, weight capacity of the lift could be important. ADA guidelines mandate a 300 lb. lifting capacity. However, there are heavy duty lifts on the market that provide more lifting capacity if needed. Seating systems vary. Be sure that the seating system on the lift you select can accommodate the bulk of your patient population and can be adapted for patients who require special considerations. Pool lifts are available from a variety of distribution channels. Most Durable Medical Equipment (DME) dealers market these products in the health care space, while swimming pool equipment companies sell into the aquatic sector. Additionally, when purchacing a lift, find out about installation assistance (if required) and follow up service. For more information about pool lifts and ADA guidelines, visit, contact the US Access Board, or visit their website: Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

ADA Swimming Pool Compliance — Understanding the Safe Harbor Provision. The recently published revision to the American’s with Disabilities Act contains a provision that is known as “Safe Harbor.” The purpose of this document is to clarify this provision as it relates to swimming pool accessibility. Following the passage of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, the Department of Justice issued an initial set of accessibility guidelines in 1991. These standards covered items that would immediately improve accessibility for people with disabilities. Although these guidelines covered many parts of society, there were a number of areas that were either not included or were incomplete. The 2010 revision to ADA expanded several existing areas that were covered in the 1991 guidelines and also introduced new standards for areas that were not covered in the 1991 version. In order to ease the financial burden on existing ADA compliant facilities, these new regulations provide a Safe Harbor provision with respect to the 2010 Standards. For example, if there is a requirement in the 2010 Standards that is either an enhancement or a change from the modifications made to comply with the 1991 guidelines, an existing facility would not be required to make that change until alterations to the facility are made.

In the case of swimming pools, the Safe Harbor provision does not apply since there were no technical or scoping requirements contained in the 1991 guidelines that directly addressed swimming pools. According to the 2010 Standards — “. . .the safe harbor provided in § 36.304(d)(2)(i) does not apply to those elements in existing facilities that are subject to supplemental requirements (i.e., elements for which there are neither technical nor scoping specifications in the 1991 Standards), and therefore those elements must be modified to the extent readily achievable to comply with the 2010 Standards.” Additionally, “Elements in the 2010 Standards not eligible for... Safe Harbor are identified as follows - (j) Swimming Pools, Wading Pools and Spas, sections 242 and 1009.”

The bottom line is that swimming pools are not eligible for Safe Harbor and therefore, will need to provide accessibility as outlined in the 2010 Standards. For more information on this swimming pool accessibility, please contact the ADA at, or visit Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Selecting a Swimming Pool Lift Swimming pools can be a fountain of youth for people with disabilities. Water based activities provide a myriad of benefits for anyone, but are especially important for anyone living with mobility challenges.

Electronic Lif ts

Pool lifts are the most flexible and efficient method for enabling swimming pool access. When selecting a lift, there are many factors to consider in order to ensure that the lift you purchase fits your needs. These factors include; the type of pool, the type of programming, the design of the pool, and, of course, your available budget.

Portable lifts are perfect for busy, multi-use commercial facilities. These lifts require no physical installation or anchoring to the pool deck since stability is provided by a counter weight system. They are simply moved into place for use, and stored when not in use. They can be used at virtually any point along the pool deck* and most meet established ADA guidelines.

Electronic lifts come in three styles: portable, removable and permanent (fixed).

Por table Lif ts

Pool Lift Maintenance Before diving into the different types of pool lifts, it is worth noting that all types of pool lifts require maintenance under ADA’s “Maintenance of Accessible Features” provision. This provision states that “a public accomodation shall maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily acccessible to and useable by persons with disabilities”.

Lif t Types Pool lifts can be broken down into three categories: electronic (battery powered) lifts, water powered lifts and manual Lifts. Electronic swimming pool lifts, brought proven hospital patient lifting technology to the industry. These battery powered units helped create a new category of lifts that offered increased flexibility and enhanced mobility. The battery, in these types of lifts, powers an electronic actuator which drives the lifting operation. This powerful actuator provides a high degree of lifting capacity and flexibility which in turn allows the lift to work reliably on virtually any type of swimming pool.

Portable Pool Lift

Lift Location Pool lifts should be placed along the pools edge in a location that allows for a minimum submerged depth of 18” below the stationary water line and where the waters total depth does not exceed 48”.

Interested in seeing which type of lift will work best in your facility? Then visit Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Removable Lif ts

Water Powered Lif ts

Removable lifts are anchored into the deck and can be removed from their anchoring system and stored away when not in use. Normally, there is some form of transport mechanism available to facilitate the lift’s relocation. Removable lifts have the same features as portable lifts, however they can only be used from a fixed deck location. Because they are mounted into the deck, these types of lifts have a greater weight lifting capacity than their portable counterparts. In addition, removable lifts are generally less expensive than portable lifts however they do carry the added cost of installation.

Water powered lifts operate on a fairly simple hydraulic concept. Water fills a sealed cylinder, which creates pressure and causes the lift to rise. When the cylinder is emptied, the pressure is released and the lift is lowered. The inside of the cylinder is machined in so that the raising and lowering action of the seat is channeled to rotate around the cylinder.

Water Powered Lifts

Removable Pool Lift

Permanent Lif ts Permanent lifts are fixed to the deck and typically have a higher lifting capacity than portable lifts. However, because they are not removable they have the potential to be viewed as a play structure by young swimmers. In light of this, it is recommended that facilities regularly check the unit to ensure it has not become an attractive nuisance and install signage that discourages misuse.


Water powered lifts are connected to a facility’s water supply through either a hose or a feed pipe. The valve that controls the lift either fills or drains the cylinder. This results in a seat position that is either up or down, there is no intermediate stop. The operation of the lift and its lifting capacity are dependent on the local water supply. If the water pressure is too low, the lifting capacity is compromised. In areas of regular low water pressure, booster pumps can be used to maintain operational pressure. Water powered lifts are generally permanent installations. The cylinder runs down the pool wall, encroaching into the useable area of the pool, and extends upwards high enough to allow the seat to rest approximately 16 inches above the deck. Due to the cylinder having to be against the pool wall, water powered lifts can only be effectively used with simple gutter designs. Many commercial pools, which feature rim flow and roll out gutters, curbs, and other complex designs, are not suitable for water powered lifts. Water powered lifts are capable of being operated independently and meet ADA requirements when used on a compatible pool. Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Manual Lif ts Manual lifts are usually powered by a hydraulic cylinder or a hand crank that operates a turning gear. Manual lifts often times provide a sling for transferring the user and the rotational operation is provided by the attendant. These lifts are mounted to the pool deck via an anchor and are usually considered permanent installations. Manual lifts require someone to assist the user, and, for this reason, cannot be used in any public facility that

comes under the jurisdiction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Manual lifts may work well in a residential setting and are an inexpensive alternative when compared to electronic and water powered lifts. The following chart describes various types of swimming pool applications and makes recommendations regarding the most appropriate lift for the application.

Installation Type


Municipal or Community Center Pool

In a busy, multi-use environment, either a portable or removable lift will work, although our recommendation would be portable. Permanent lifts can become an attractive nuisance as kids look to climb and potentially may become an obstruction during swim competitions.

School or University Pool

Since these pools are used by fewer young children, the chance of the lift becoming an attractive nuisance is diminished. In light of this, either a portable or removable lift would be acceptable. Fundamentally, the choice will come down to what best supports the facility’s programming.

Therapy Pool

Pools located in health care facilities are normally application specific (e.g. Therapy). As space is generally an issue in these types of applications, a removable lift would be the first choice. Additionally, these lifts can provide greater lifting capacity which may better serve the facility’s interests.

Hotel or Resort Pool

Both portable and removable lifts are acceptable for this type of application but portable would be the recommended standard. Besides the possible aforementioned attractive nuisance safety issues, many of these facilities invest a small fortune in their swimming pools. So having a lift that is highly mobile, can be used where it’s needed and then stored away to ensure the architectural intent of the environment are key considerations.

Residential Pool

All types of pool lifts are appropriate for this type of installation. Since ADA rules do not apply, a manual lift would work as long as there is always someone available to assist the swimmer. For more independence, either water powered or electronic lifts could also be used. Since most residential pools have simple gutter designs, almost any lift would be compatible. If the residence has a pool and a spa, either a portable or removable lift would be more desirable. Depending on the layout of the pool area, a single deck mounted lift may be able to service both the spa and the pool. Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

Who Must Comply With ADA Law? This document is being presented to discuss the different types of facilities that would be required to comply with the revised ADA regulations published on September 15, 2010. Entities affected by the revised regulations generally fall under either Title II or Title III of the Act. Title II outlines regulations for any public entity. A public entity is any activity, service, program or facility owned by any governmental agency. Title III regulates places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and private companies that offer courses and examinations related to educational and occupational certification. The ADA does not affect any type of residential dwelling, such as a private residence, an apartment complex, a condominium, or a home owner’s association. However, if any of these residential facilities operate an element of public accommodation within their premises, these elements would be subject to ADA regulations. Here are some examples of situations where a residential entity would fall under ADA regulations with respect to swimming pools: 1. A private residential apartment complex sells memberships to their swimming facilities. This situation would be considered providing a public accommodation. 2. A Home Owner’s Association pool is used for swimming competitions that are open to competitors from outside the association. This situation would also be considered offering a public accommodation. 3. A condominium actively rents out their units when owners are absent, including advertising, taking reservations over the phone, and providing either meals or housekeeping services.

In this instance, the condominium would be considered a hotel. 4. A vacation timeshare that operates as a hotel. This facility would be considered a hotel. Conversely, if any residential entity strictly limits use of their facilities to residents and their guests, they would not be subject to ADA regulations. Although residential facilities are not required to comply with ADA regulations for swimming pools, they must comply with the Fair Housing Act. Under this legislation, a privately owned residential community must provide a barrier free pathway up to the edge of a pool. In addition, they cannot prevent a resident from using their own apparatus to gain access to the pool, providing it does not provide a hazard for other residents. In other words, if a resident has a portable pool lift and keeps it in storage when not in use, the facility cannot prevent that resident from using the lift to gain access to the pool. Private clubs are also excluded from ADA regulations in some cases. Final determination would be based on the control of operations, membership requirements, and the amount of fees involved. Operations that have limited or no membership requirements and minimal dues charges do not fall under the private club exclusion. If a private club limits use of their facilities strictly to members and their guests, then the club would not be subject to ADA regulations. However, if that club hosts swimming competitions or any other type of activity that opens the pool to non-members, the club would be required to follow ADA regulations for their pool. For further information on this or any other ADA issue, visit our website,

Resources: Who is Affected by the ADA Law? Retreived from Copyright © 2010 S.R.Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.

ADA Whitepapers for Pool Lifts  

All ADA Whitepapers discussing the new ADA regulations for pool accessibility.

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