What is the deal with accessible swimming pools?

Posted on - Sunday, June 24th, 2012

 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 must be located in an area shallower than 48″ deep.  If the entire pool is deeper than 48″ then location is not dictated and it can go anywhere.
Must be permanently installed.
Sloped Entry
They are just like ramps, but do not require slip resistant surface or handrail extensions.  They should only go as deep as 30″ below the water level.  If the pool is deeper, a platform at 30″ that is 5′-0″ wide should be provided.  The sloped entry does not extend beyond that.
Transfer Walls
 transfer walls
Transfer System 
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 January 31, 2013 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.