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.
my agency conduct an access audit of sites and facilities, especially aquatics
sites? If not, when are we moving to do so?
we acquire pool lifts or make sloped entries compliant? If not, do we
have a plan for by what date we will do so?
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
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.