New Americans with Disabilities Act Requirements for Swimming Pools

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QUESTION: I have been informed by a swimming pool company that manufactured housing community owners are now required to provide an accessible means of entry for swimming pools. Is it true that community owners with existing pools will now have to buy pool lifts or construct accessible stairs into the pool? If so, it will be a huge expense for many park owners.

ANSWER: The Americans with Disability Act, or “ADA” deals with accommodations in two major sectors, public (Title II) and private (Title III). The public sector covers state and local governmental facilities and the private sector deals with private entities that “own, operate, and lease” places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, convention centers, retail stores, shopping malls, dry cleaners, laundromats, pharmacies, doctors' offices, hospitals, museums, libraries, parks, zoos, amusement parks, private schools, day care centers, health spa and bowling alleys.

On September 15, 2010, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), who enforces the ADA, issued revised regulations for Titles II and III. Among other things, the new regulations include new accessibility standards for swimming pools. Existing swimming pools must be modified to comply with the 2010 guidelines no later than March 12, 2012. For new construction, the 2010 guidelines must be followed on a going forward basis. Included in these guidelines are swimming pool accessibility requirements. They provide that any swimming pool with less than 300 linear feet of pool wall must provide one means of access either by sloped entry or by the installation of a pool lift.

Any pool that has more than 300 linear feet of pool wall must provide two means of access, which can be any of five designated means of access: (1) pool lifts, (2) sloped entries, (3) transfer walls, (4) transfer systems, or (5) accessible pool stairs. Having said this, it is clear that private manufactured housing communities are neither public or private facilities that offer “public accommodations” under the ADA ‐ at least insofar as they do not open their pool and recreational facilities to the general public.

However, two words of warning:

  1. While the ADA does not strictly cover private residential facilities such as apartments, homes and manufactured housing communities, if a park resident provides child day care services open to the public in his or her private residence, those portions of the residence used for that purpose are subject to ADA’s requirements. So, community owners and managers should be aware if any of their residents are operating such services, as ADA accessibility, including the pool area, may be subject to ADA requirements, to the extent that the resident makes the park facilities available for use by the children.
  2. The Fair Housing Act, which is administered by Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap. To that extent, landlords arerequired to make “reasonable accommodations” if requested by their handicapped residents. To some extent, this could apply to a pool or other recreational facilities. The body of law as to what constitutes a “reasonable accommodation” is far too voluminous to address here. Suffice it to say, however, that a landlord is not required to make such an accommodation (e.g. retrofitting the community’s existing swimming pool) if the cost would impose an undue financial burden.

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