Saturday, February 4, 2012
Removing Barriers So All Can Swim!
Many heros will be coming home soon. Many of our heros gave a part of themselves for our freedom but it also took away some of their personal freedom to move about freely. We all know how therapeutic water therapy can be for the disabled, the elderly and anyone with impaired movement.
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) has imposed rules regarding barrier removal for the disabled in regards to swimming pools specifically for primary and secondary access. There are five acceptable means of access. This rule is interpreted by each state in addition to the Justice Department. A state may have clauses in their building code which may be stricter than that of the Federal Department of Justice. This is true in North Carolina so what may be read online regarding fees or memberships to use pools in determining exclusions may not be correct on a state level.For pools over 300 linear feet, two means of access must be provided with at least one required primary access type. For smaller pools it is required to have one primary type access.
The two primary means of access would include mechanical lift chairs and also sloped entries to pools including ramps.
A mechanical lift chair can be permanently installed or be portable. It should be able to have controls so the person using the lift can use as well as someone outside the seat area. Various models are available with arm rests, foot support and portable batteries. Again check with your state code as some states will not allow a portable model.
The sloped entry can be built in or be a removable type ramp. Sloped entry is recommended if there are a large number of ambulatory users. The slope access must be thirty six inches wide (48 inches in NC, so check with your state building code) and slope twelve inches for every one foot in depth (1:12). For every thirty feet in length there must be a landing of level area of sixty inches long. Handrails and an aquatic mobile chair are required with slope or ramp entries.
The three secondary means of access consist of transfer walls, transfer systems and accessible pool stairs. The two primary means of access also qualify as secondary means of access.
A transfer wall is a wall where someone can transfer themselves from a wheelchair onto a wall and then ease themselves into the pool. There is a grab bar the width of the pool wall to help in transfer. A transfer system is similar to a wall where the person transfers from a wheel chair to the top of the device and then down the device into the pool water. A grab bar must be used on this system.
Accessible stairs offer support and rails for balance to enter the pool from a standing position and have rails.
The United States Access Board has provided a complete and very useful summary at:
The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals provides some Q&A facts, and updated Q&A linked by the highlighted words or available at www.apsp.org
The Dept. of Justice has provided an ADA 2010 Update on Accessibility as well.
As this is a complaint driven compliance issue, please be sure to check with your insurance company and counsel for the best policy and action to take. New construction must be compliant, and all existing pools must be compliant or have a plan in place by March 12, 2012. For further information please contact the Department of Justice at http://www.ada.gov/.