Staying Current Navigating the ADA Requirements for Existing Title II Swimming Facilities

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by Posted on April 30, 2012

NRPA is releasing an open letter this week regarding the application of the swimming facility accessibility requirements to existing swimming pools.  This is an important subject to you, your agency, the people you serve, and your coworkers. 

Why is it important?  

None of you, citizens or pros, stands in front of your swimming pool and purposely bars the admission of a person over the age of 55, a person with an ethnicity different than yours, a person with a gender different than yours, or a person with a different religious belief than yours.  And if someone told you that inadvertently you were doing so, I suspect, knowing many of you, that you would be embarrassed.  You would then stop the inadvertent discriminatory practice, implement staff training on the issue, and move on to a great swim season.

So why is disability different? 

The swimming facility requirements are a part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a very "young" civil rights law.  The ADA is only 21 years old, and the swimming facility requirements are younger than that.  Perhaps in time we'll see a pool lift, or an accessible locker room bench, or locker controls that don't require tight pinching, twisting, and grasping, and not even think twice about it.  But today, in many pools, locker rooms, hot tubs, and zero depth pools, these usually are not compliant. 

So it is time for change, time for action.  

Ask yourself: 

  1.  Did my agency conduct an access audit of sites and facilities, especially aquatics sites?  If not, when are we moving to do so? 
  1. Did we acquire pool lifts or make sloped entries compliant?  If not, do we have a plan for by what date we will do so? 
  1. Have we reached out to our public with disabilities for their preferences and to make them aware of our progress in this area?  If not, by when are we doing so?

Yes, change does require that we think about issues or circumstances differently.  We in parks and recreation are good at that though.  Access and inclusion are here to stay.  The sooner we embrace and exceed the requirements, as opposed to resisting the minimum requirements, the more quickly we'll serve all of our communities, including people with disabilities. 

 I urge you to move ahead quickly.  I invite you to reach me at [email protected] with questions, suggestions, great ideas, and success stories.  Let's lead, not follow, on this important issue.

Written by John N. McGovern, J.D. , president of Recreation Accessibility Consultants, LLC.  Read the open letter on the ADA Requirements for Existing Title II Swimming Facilities here.

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