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Frequently Asked Questions about Pool Lifts

We have answered many of the most frequently asked questions regarding Pool Lifts and making sure your pool is ADA compliant. Take a look at the list, or contact us with additional questions.

Who has to comply with the ADA’s Title II and Title III standards?
All pools that have public access will need to comply by March 15, 2012

Are pre-existing campgrounds and hotels grandfathered in?
The ADA does not have a provision to “grandfather” a facility

What happens if I do not comply?
The Department, under title III, can obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation on the part of an offender, as well as $110,000 for subsequent violations.

I have more than one pool. Can I share a portable lift between the pools?
No, each existing pool must have its own lift. Sharing non-fixed lifts between pools poses a significant safety risk to swimmers with disabilities. If the lift has to be moved, it could potentially strand one of the users. Sharing also requires people with disabilities to rely on staff to move and set up the lift each time.

Can I use a portable lift that is non-fixed to the pool deck?
A lift must be attached or fixed to the pool deck in some way. Fixed lifts do not mean permanently attached. The lift may be removable. A “portable” lift that is attached to the pool deck is considered a fixed lift.

What is the effective compliance date of the ADA standards for accessible pools?
The effective date of the 2010 Standards generally is March 15, 2012. However, and in response to public comments and concerns, the Department has extended the date for compliance for the requirements related to the provision of accessible entry and exit to existing swimming pools, wading pools, and spas to January 31, 2013.

What does the ADA require for accessibility of pools?
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by places of public accommodation, including many private businesses. Title III requires newly constructed and 2 altered business facilities to be fully accessible to people with disabilities, applying the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. In addition, Title III requires businesses to remove accessibility barriers in existing facilities when doing so is readily achievable.

The 2010 Standards require that newly constructed or altered swimming pools, wading pools, and spas have an accessible way for people with disabilities to enter and exit the pool. The Standards also provide technical specifications for when a means of entry is accessible, such as, for pool lifts, the location, size of the seat, lifting capacity, and clear floor space. You can see the 2010 ADA Standards at http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm.

For existing swimming pools built before the effective date of the new rule, the 2010 Standards provide the guide for achieving accessibility. However, full compliance may not be required in existing facilities.

The 2010 Standards explain whether a newly constructed or altered pool needs to have one or two accessible means of entry and exit. Section 242 provides that large pools (pools with 300 linear feet of pool wall or more) must have two accessible means of entry and exit. One means of entry/exit must be a fixed pool lift or sloped entry; the other entry can be a transfer wall, transfer system, or pool stairs. Small pools (pools with less than 300 linear feet of pool wall) must provide at least one accessible means of entry/exit, which must be either a fixed pool
lift or a sloped entry.

The 2010 Standards also provide details about what features an accessible means of entry or exit should have. Specifically, section 1009 addresses the location, size of the seat, lifting capacity, and clear floor space required for fixed pool lifts, as well as the requirements for sloped entries, transfer walls, transfer systems, and pool stairs. A copy of the 2010 ADA Standards is available at http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm.

The 2010 Standards require that new or altered wading pools have a sloped entry. New or altered spas must have at least one accessible means of entry, which may be a transfer wall, a transfer system, or a pool lift. See sections 242.3 and 242.4 of the 2010 Standards.

My pool already existed before the effective date of the new rule. What am I required to do to provide pool access to customers with mobility disabilities?
The ADA requires businesses to make existing pools accessible only when it is “readily achievable” to do so. Readily achievable means that providing access is easily accomplish-able without much difficulty or expense. The 2010 Standards provide the benchmark, or goal, for accessibility in existing pools. However, owners of existing pools need to comply with the 2010 Standards only to the extent that doing so is readily achievable for them.

The 2010 Standards for pool lifts require lifts to be fixed and to meet additional requirements for location, size of the seat, lifting capacity, and clear floor space. Therefore, if a business can provide a fixed lift that meets all of the 2010 Standards’ requirements without much difficulty or expense, the business must provide one. If no fully compliant lift is readily achievable for the business, the business is not obligated to provide a fully compliant lift until doing so becomes readily achievable. In addition, the business may provide a non-fixed lift that otherwise complies with the requirements in the 2010 Standards if doing so is readily achievable and if full compliance is not.

Are there any tax credits or deductions to help me comply?
Yes. To assist businesses with complying with the ADA, Section 44 of the IRS Code allows a tax credit for small businesses and Section 190 of the IRS Code allows a tax deduction for all businesses. The tax credit is available to businesses that have total revenues of $1,000,000 or less in the previous tax year or 30 or fewer full-time employees. This credit can cover 50% of the eligible access expenditures in a year up to $10,250 (maximum credit of $5000). The tax credit can be used to offset the cost of undertaking barrier removal and alterations to improve accessibility; providing accessible formats such as Braille, large print and audio tape; making available a sign language interpreter or a reader for customers or employees; and for purchasing certain adaptive equipment. The tax deduction is available to all businesses with a maximum deduction of $15,000 per year. The tax deduction can be claimed for expenses incurred in barrier removal and alterations. To learn more about the tax credit and tax deduction provisions, contact the DOJ ADA Information Line (at 800-514-0301 (voice); 800-514-0383 (TTY).

What is the difference between a “portable” lift and a “fixed” lift?
The real issue is not whether a lift is “portable” versus “fixed,” but rather whether a lift is “fixed” versus “non-fixed.” A fixed lift means that the lift is attached to the pool deck or apron in some way. A non-fixed lift means that it is not attached in any way. Therefore, a portable lift that is attached to the pool deck would be considered a fixed lift. Thus, owners of portable lifts can fully comply with the access requirements by affixing their lifts to the pool deck or apron. They are required to do so if that is readily achievable.

I already purchased a portable lift before March 15, 2012. Can I still use it?
Yes. If you have purchased a non-fixed lift before March 15th that otherwise complies with the requirements in the 2010 Standards for pool lifts (such as seat size, etc.), you may use it, as long as you keep it in position for use at the pool and operational during all times that the pool is open to guests. Because of a misunderstanding by some pool owners regarding whether the use of portable pool lifts would comply with barrier removal obligations, the Department, as a matter of prosecutorial discretion, will not enforce the fixed elements of the 2010 Standards against those owners or operators of existing pools who purchased portable lifts prior to March 15, 2012 and who keep the portable lifts in position for use at the pool and operational during all times that the pool is open to guests so long as those lifts otherwise comply with the requirements of the 2010 Standards. Generally, lifts purchased after March 15, 2012 must be fixed if it is readily achievable to do so.

If a portable lift was purchased after March 15, 2012, the obligation to remove barriers is an ongoing one. If it becomes readily achievable to attach the lift to the pool at a later date you must do so. Manufacturers, for example, are providing kits to attach portable lifts.

What if I have two pools or a pool and a spa? Can I share a lift between pools?
In new construction, each pool or spa must provide accessible entry and exit. For existing pools, whether each pool or spa must have its own lift (or other accessible means of entry) depends on whether it is readily achievable. If it is not readily achievable for a business to provide a lift at each pool or spa, it does not mean the inaccessible pool or spa must be closed. In these circumstances, the business should make a plan to purchase and install a compliant pool lift or other accessible entry when it becomes readily achievable to do so.

Sharing non-fixed pool lifts between pools can pose safety risks to swimmers with disabilities because if a lift has been moved to another pool, a person with a disability might be unable to get out of the pool. Sharing lifts between pools also requires people with disabilities to rely on staff assistance to find, move, and set up the lift each time.

Can I store my lift and bring it out only when it is requested by a person with a disability?
No. A pool lift must remain in place and be operational during all times that the pool is open to guests. The ADA and its implementing regulations require equal and independent access for people with disabilities for all covered facilities (not just pools). Allowing covered entities to store lifts and only take them out on request places unnecessary additional burdens on people with disabilities. People with disabilities have long faced the challenges of dealing with portable accessibility features – e.g., staff are unavailable or too busy to help locate and set up the equipment, the equipment is missing, the equipment isn’t maintained, or staff do not know how to safely set up the equipment. In addition, the ADA Standards specify that a lift must be located at the proper water depth and with the necessary space around it to maneuver a wheelchair. Moving a portable lift around raises the likelihood that the lift will be improperly located, making it difficult or dangerous to use.

I’ve provided a pool lift. Do I have any further legal obligations?
Once an accessible means of entry to a pool, such as your lift, has been provided, it needs to remain available and in working condition while the pool is open to the public. Staff should also be trained so they will know how the lift works, where it is located, and how to operate and maintain it. For example, a pool lift that operates on batteries may need to be recharged periodically. To be sure that lift remains operable, staff should know how to charge the battery and be assigned to perform the task as necessary.

If I have a question about the new requirements, where do I go?
The Department’s wide-ranging outreach, education and technical assistance program is designed to assist businesses and State and local governments to understand their obligations under the ADA. Additional information about the ADA’s requirements, including the 2010 ADA Standards, is available on the Department’s ADA Website at www.ada.gov.

If you have questions and would like to speak to an ADA Specialist, please call the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice); 800-514-0383 (TTY). Specialists are available Monday through Friday from 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM (Eastern Time), except on Thursday when the hours are 12:30 PM until 5:30 PM.

ADA experts are also available to present to conferences and training sessions through the ADA Speakers Bureau.

Can I get a cover for my lift?
We sell pool lift covers for each type of pool lift. Covers help keeps the pool lift dry from rain, snow and other weather elements, as well as helps keep the lift in good condition.

Are there any tax breaks for adding ADA compliant pool lifts to my hotel or campground pool?
Some small business are eligible for a Disabled Access Credit. This credit requires that the company meet several criteria and file Form 8826 with its taxes. You can download the form and instructions at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8826.pdf

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