Swimming Pool Blog

ADA Pool Lift Deadline is Fast Approaching

ADA Pool Lift Deadline is Fast Approaching
by Rob Cox, January 24, 2013

Pool Lift Deadline Approaches

pool lift sign from MyPoolSigns.com


Through tireless efforts of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the deadline for commercial pools to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) had been delayed by one year.

One Year is up in One Week! All commercial pools (and spas) in operation during this time of year - must provide at least one means of entry for individuals with disabilities. This can be either a pool lift or a sloped entry, for use with an aquatic wheelchair.


Other Important Points:

  • Pools that have a perimeter of over 300 feet (measured around the pool wall edge, at the coping) need to provide more than one means of access. A second lift, sloped entry, transfer wall or a set of built in pool stairs.
  • Means of access must be positioned and ready to use when the pool is open.
  • Pools with a separate spa must have a separate means of access for the spa.
  • Pool lifts have to be attached to the pool deck, even portable pool lifts.

Other Information for Pools and Spas:

Each wave action, leisure river, sand bottom, or other type of pool where entry is limited to one area must have one accessible means of entry.

Spas must provide at least one accessible means of entry which can be a pool lift, transfer wall, or transfer system.  If spas are provided in a cluster, 5% of the total─with a minimum of one spa─per cluster must be accessible. 

Footrests are not required on pool lifts provided at spas.  However, footrests or retractable leg supports are encouraged, especially on lifts used in larger spas where the water depth is 34” or more and there is sufficient space. Each wading pool must provide at least one sloped entry into the deepest part of the pool.  Other forms of entry may be provided as long as the sloped entry is provided. The sloped entries for wading pools are not required to have handrails. The detailed technical requirements for the various types of accessible means of entry for swimming pools, spas, and wading pools can be found in the 2010 Standards at Section 1009.  

Pool Lifts must meet the following criteria

  • Seat width should be 16" minimum
  • Footrest and Armrest provided
  • Independently operable by user
  • Submerged depth of no more than 18"
  • Lifting capacity of 300 lbs
  • Installed in area with less than 48" water depth

On January 31, 2012, the DOJ issued a document addressing when and how pool lifts must be installed at existing and newly constructed swimming pools. Key points in the DOJ’s document include:

  • Pool lifts must be “fixed”. At existing swimming pools, if it is not readily achievable to have a “fixed” lift, then a “portable” one can be used if it meets all requirements above. DOJ has stated that “fixed” means “attached” to the pool deck.
  • What is “readily achievable” will “vary from business to business and sometimes from one year to the next” and will require a review of all the relevant regulatory factors.
  • Pool lifts must be poolside, ready for use and fully operational during pool hours. Pool lift batteries must be fully charged and ready for use at all times when the pool is open.
  • When selecting a pool lift, a lodging facility or other place of public accommodation should consider the staff and financial resources needed to keep the lift available at poolside and in working condition.
  • Each pool must have an accessible means of entry. This requirement also applies to existing pools unless it is not readily achievable to provide means of entry for every pool. In informal discussions with AH&LA the DOJ stated that a lift may not be shared between a pool and a spa.

Sloped Entries must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 36” wide
  • Have a maximum slope of 8.33%
  • Extend 24”-30” below the stationary water level
  • Have top and bottom landings if the running slope is greater than 5%
  • Have handrails on both sides (except in wading pools)


Transfer Walls

A transfer wall is a wall along an accessible route that allows an individual with a disability to leave his/her wheelchair or other mobility device and transfer onto the wall and then into a pool or spa. 

  • Clear deck space, at least 60" wide
  • Height of 16-19" above pool deck
  • Level Surface, Anti-Skid
  • Grab bars for assistance


Transfer Systems

A transfer system consists of a transfer platform and a series of transfer steps that descend into the water. Users transfer from their wheelchair orTransfer System other mobility device to the transfer platform and continue transferring into the water, step by step.

  • Transfer platform of at least 19" deep and 24" wide
  • Transfer space of at least 60" x 60"
  • Transfer step height of 8" maximum
  • Surface - smooth and rounded
  • Grab bars on each step, or one continuous bar - on each side


Pool Stairs

Accessible pool stairs begin at the pool deck level and descend into the water. In addition, to be used as a means of entry for an individual with a disability, pool stairs must have

  • Steps should be at least 11" deep, and uniform in height
  • Risers must be closed - no open risers
  • Handrails should be 20" - 24" apart

For more information, on the 2010 ADA regulations, as they apply to Pools and Spas, See the
ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

Indoor pools - you have only one week left to comply. For outdoor pools opening later in the season, you must have the proper means of access in place before opening your doors.

Any questions?