Accessible Pools

Posted on - Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The 2010 ADA Standards require that swimming pools, wading pools and spas be made accessible to the disabled community.  Existing pools also have to comply , but the Department of Justice allows that to happen “as it is readily achievable”. This newsletter explains what the requirements are and what the deadlines to comply will be.

ADA Section 242 Swimming Poools, Wading Pools and Spas

For swimming pools to be accessible they must have at least one accessible means of entry.  The ADA Standards allows the following methods of entry into a pool:

Pool Lifts



They are not required if the pool is deeper than 48″
Must be permanently installed.

Sloped Entry
They are just like ramps, but do not require slip resistant surface or handrail extensions.

Transfer Walls
Transfer System 
Pools Stairs
If the pool is larger than 300 linear feet of pool wall, then two means of entry should be provided. At least one of the means of entry should be a lift or a sloped entry.

Swimming facilities- Per US Access Board

Aquatic Recreation Facilities

Wave action pools, leisure rivers, sand bottom pools, and other pools where access to the water is limited to one area and where everyone gets in and out at the same place, must provide at least one accessible means of entry, no matter how many linear feet of pool wall is provided. The accessible means of entry can be either a pool lift, sloped entry, or transfer system.


Catch Pools
A catch pool is a body of water where water slide flumes drop users into the water. An accessible means of entry or exit is not required into the catch pool. However, an accessible route must connect to the edge of the catch pool.


Wading Pools
A wading pool is a pool designed for shallow depth and is used for wading. Each wading pool must provide at least one sloped entry into the deepest part. Other forms of entry may be provided as long as a sloped entry is provided. The sloped entries for wading pools are not required to have handrails.

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 percent of the total-or at least one spa-must be accessible. If there is more than one cluster, one spa or 5 percent 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 inches or more and there is sufficient space.

Department of Justice Requirements

Since swimming pools were not required to be accessible in the 1991 ADAAG, this brand new requirement applies to new construction that occurs after the mandatory date of March 15, 2012.  But the DOJ also required that existing facilities be brought up to compliance “as it is readily achievable”.  What this means is that means is that compliance should be achieved without much effort and expense.

For existing facilities with swimming pools, what this means is that the means of entry should be provided if there is enough money and if it does not cause undue burden for the building owner.  These terms are very subjective and they must be backed up with financial proof.  Many members of the hospitality industry were concerned about these new requirements, and therefore the DOJ gave an extension until May 15th to comply with these requirements.  My colleague Ken Otten wrote a great blog about it.  I recommend that you read it to gain a better understanding of this ruling.

What’s next….

Continuing Education:

May 2nd: DOJ will be having a free webinar explaining swimming pools.  Register here

May 11th: AIA Knowledge Communities will have part 2 of the three part webinar about Universal Design.  Space is limited, so sign up here

If you want to learn more about the new Standards, The ADA Companion Guide explains the 2004 ADAAG Guidelines  with commentary and explanations throughout.  The 2004 Guidelines were adopted by the DOJ to create the 2010 Standards and by Texas to create the 2012 TAS.  This book explains the technical requirements for both.

If you have any questions about these or any other topics, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Marcela Abadi Rhoads, RAS #240

Abadi Accessibility
214. 403.8714