New guidelines for pools

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – During the last couple of years new ADA guidelines have had many people wondering which pools are complying with federal law.  From hotels to health clubs, any pool that offers public access is affected.

The standards for accessibility were laid out in 2010.

The Department of Justice set a deadline for March of last year, but then moved it to the end of this January. Now, a lot of pools are open, but still don’t have the modifications.

Fear and confusion about the rules last year meant many pool operators were afraid they wouldn’t be able to open without the lifts or ramps- or would face huge fines. Now it seems they’ve got a little breathing room, but not forever.

For people confined to wheelchairs, many feel they’ve waited long enough

David Higginbotham isn’t paralyzed, but he relies on a power chair to get around. He says he suffers from a disease that makes his bones extremely brittle and if they break- they probably won’t heal. He’s been fighting for more access for persons with disabilities at all public places, across the board.

“We’re supposed to have the same rights as everybody else and then we get pushed under, pushed under the table or pushed to the side. Well we don’t have the money or something like that,” said Higginbotham.

“To me I don’t think a facility that’s public should be allowed to have a permit without being ADA compliant. That includes swimming pools, bars, businesses, restaurants, there’s a whole lot of people around here that are not ADA compliant.”

The guidelines say pools with public access need to have lifts or gradual, sloping, zero grade entries to accommodate persons with disabilities.

We contacted the YMCA Association Compliance Officer for the YMCA of Greater Birmingham to find out if their local facilities have the ADA compliant pool access points.

“Some of them don’t. Some of them do.  Part of the requirement with the ADA is that while it postponed the initial requirement for 6 months it said that anything under construction or renovation would have to be ADA requirement. So during that time we’ve already opened two pools at our Shades Valley and Alabaster location and those are ADA compliant,” said Michael Tsimpides, YMCA Association Compliance Officer for the YMCA of Greater Birmingham.

According to Tsimpides, amid all the confusion and concern over the requirements the DOJ clarified that existing pools should make modifications if that isn’t too challenging or expensive.

“You’re probably talking about over 4,000 dollars per lift depending on the type and that’s, that’s what we’re looking at. Because it was something that had to be budgeted in order to do it- that’s part of the reason we had to set a plan in place and space that out so that we could, could meet the requirements and also stay within our budget that we have,” said Tsimpedes.

“Right now our plan is to go ahead and begin installing the lifts right after the summer at our pools,” said Tsimpides. “It won’t be all at the same time, they’ll be spread out over a number of months.”

“It’s really good. I mean it’s something we’ve seen as a need and it’s something that we’ve embraced,” said Tsimpides. “I mean it is necessary.”

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