Tuesday, March 13, 2012

At Some Hotels, It's 'Everybody Out of the Pool!' On Thursday

[Photo: An ADA-compliant handicap pool-lift]

The word "disabled" is a hot-wire one (just try writing anything that the extremely powerful handicap lobby disagrees with and see what kind of a reaction you get, buster) -- so we'll approach this with some discretion.

Did you know that the federal government is requiring every hotel in the United States to have "handicapped accessible" lifts for every swimming pool, effective Thursday?

Not doing so means a fine of $55,000.

The lifts that are approved under the Americans With Disabilities Act cost around $6,000 but can cost a whole lot more, depending. Here's one link to a pool-lift supplier catalog for a general overview.

Hotels that don't, won't or can't put this equipment in expect that they will have to shut down their pools Thursday. The hotel trade association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, says there are 51,000 hotels, motels and other commercial lodging establishments in the U.S.

Most of the hotels and motels, of course, have pools. Somebody's making a lot of dough selling pool lifts! (Some of the online pool-lift suppliers even have live countdown clocks ticking off how many hours and minutes are left before the federal deadline to comply.)

Here is the applicable ruling from the Justice Department under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) appealed the Justice Department ruling, asking for an extension of the deadline. It lost.

Here is the letter from the Justice Department literally laying down the law for the hotel industry.

Here's the AH&LA statement about having its request for more time rejected:

"On March 9, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) informed AH&LA that it would not revisit the positions it took in a January 31, 2012, technical assistance document entitled 'ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Accessible Pools-- Means of Entry and Exit' (the 'Guidance'), nor would it extend the March 15, 2012, deadline for lodging facilities and other public accommodations to comply with the new requirements first articulated in this Guidance.

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez delivered this message in [a] letter which largely ignored the reasons provided by the AH&LA (Attachment 1) for why the arbitrary and unlawful new requirements should be stayed (the “DOJ Letter”) (Attachment 2).

The DOJ’s position as stated in the Guidance, subsequent communications with AH&LA on February 8 and 21, 2012, and now in the DOJ letter is that:

--Every single pool and spa (or spa “cluster”) in the United States located at a public accommodation must be retrofitted with an accessible means of entry by March 15, 2012 unless it is not “readily achievable” to do so. The discussion has focused on pool lifts because they are the only feasible accessible entry options for most existing pools and spas.
--Pool lifts must be “fixed” and cannot be “portable.” At existing swimming pools, portable lifts can only be used if the installation of a fixed lift is not readily achievable. DOJ informed AH&LA that a “fixed” lift is one that is attached to the pool deck so that if the deck were turned upside down, it would not fall off the deck.
--Pool lifts must be at poolside and ready for use at all times when the pool is open to guests.
--A pool lift may not be shared between two pools or a pool and a spa in the same location."


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