Modifying Public Swimming Pools to Comply with Provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Osinski, Alison, Palaestra
An estimated 43 million Americans, or about 12% of the population, have at least one physical or mental disability. The number of disabled Americans continues to increase. The population is aging, and seriously injured individuals are surviving because of medical advances and better trauma care.
Aquatic facilities should be designed to meet the needs of the total population, including individuals with disabilities. Most pools need to attract a broader spectrum of participants. Only about 30% of the U.S. population swims, but almost everyone can benefit from some form of aquatic participation. Pools can be utilized for recreational, competitive, fitness, instructional, therapeutic or rehabilitative purposes. Participation in aquatic activites provides opportunities for socialization and shared experiences, a chance to become part of a support group, can culminate in improved strength and physical fitness, and may result in increased self-reliance and a more positive outlook on life.
Yet discrimination in aquatic programming and poor facility design persist. Individuals with disabilities are often unintentionally excluded from fully participating in aquatic activities because of architectural barriers or overprotective rules. Unfounded generalizations may prevent their acceptance and employment as aquatic professionals.
In response to recently enacted legislation, owners or operators of aquatic facilities have begun examining whether their facilities are really accessible to everyone. Interested parties should insist that all aquatic facilities be modified as needed to make them fully accessible and in compliance with provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Public Law 101-336, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), was signed into law by President Bush on July 26, 1990.
ADA Titles I-V
II Public Services and Transportation
III Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities
V Miscellaneous Provisions (prohibition of intimidation or retaliation against those filing complaints, special considerations for alterations to historical sites, availability of technical assistance...) Regulations have been promulgated by federal agencies charged with that duty, and the five titles covered under the ADA are currently being implemented.
The ADA mandates that "No individual be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation" [[sections]302 (a)]. The ADA basically prohibits discrimination in facilities open to the public against those with disabilities, and has as its purpose the mainstreaming of non able-bodied individuals into American society.
The ADA augments or strengthens other laws which were designed to prevent discrimination, or that require facilities be accessible to all Americans. Aquatic organizations can no longer continue to ignore provisions of laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Federal Handicapped Law ([sections]504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973), or state codes such as the California Administrative Code (Title 24, [sections]2, July 1, 1982). In the past, many aquatic professionals resisted implementing provisions of these laws in a mistaken belief that the requirements did not pertain to them.
Although the ADA does not specifically mention pools or spas as facilities which must comply with the law, it does list: hotels or motels, stadiums or other places of exhibition or entertainment, professional offices of health care providers, parks or places of recreation, schools, social service center establishments, gymnasiums, health spas, or other places of exercise or recreation. …