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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Swimming Pool & Spa Guidelines

The US Federal Government has recently issued the 2010 ADA Standards. The required changes to accessibility for recreation facilities have raised a lot of questions. Ramaker & Associates has discussed the standards with government officials and gathered information together on this web page as a resource for our clients.

The deadline for compliance with the 2010 ADA Standards is set at March 15, 2012. Similar to the implementation of the VGBA, there are still many questions as to how this affects existing and new pool construction. In early February 2012, the U.S. Dept. of Justice released their interpretations of the ADA guidelines (see below for links). More information is necessary from the U.S. Dept. of Justice and state governments regarding making changes to existing pools for ADA compliance. Please check back with this page as we will post more information as it becomes available.

S.R. Smith
Photo courtesy of S.R. Smith

ADA at a Glance

If you only have a few minutes, you can look at Ramaker & Associates' plain english notes from:

A phone call with the DBTAC

An IAAPA webinar
Want to dig a little deeper? See the links below.

2010 ADA Guidelines for Recreation Facilities

(as applied to the Great Lakes Region)

The following notes were generated from a June 2011 phone conversation between Ramaker & Associates and the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC Great Lakes ADA Center). Anyone pursuing ADA compliance should contact the DBTAC along with their local pool licensing agency for specific questions regarding the application of ADA requirements.

The compliance date established is March 15, 2012. This is not a hard and absolute date, but a marker point for what could be considered a "Readily Achievable" timeframe.

"Readily Achievable" is the magic phrase that surrounds this regulation in regards to existing facilities. It encompasses all the factors that can come into play, and more or less means that each facility has its own situations, circumstances, and limitations; therefore, each facility needs to be looked at and considered individually.

Title II Government facilities are the most burdened by the 2010 ADA Standards. These facilities include School Districts, Municipalities, Park Districts, non-private Hospitals or Athletic Centers, or any State or Federally Owned facilities. Title II facilities will be held to the compliance date more strictly and will most likely be under more scrutiny from the general public.

The 2010 ADA Regulations state that any modifications or alterations will require the standards be put into affect. This is only in regards to the specific modifications or alterations being performed. Any modifications that occurred for VGBA compliance do not affect the need for ADA compliance. Likewise, general maintenance modifications or alterations in a pool room, or any other areas of the building, do not affect the swimming pool.

Depending on the extent of the modifications or alterations, the path of accessibility will need to be brought into compliance. For example, if a hotel remodels and redesigns their lobby area, the accessibility paths to other areas (pool area) will need to brought up to the 2010 ADA Standards. If the same hotel chooses to expand their indoor swimming area, any new pools will need to be designed to current 2010 ADA Standards. However, if the existing pools are not altered, the existing pools may only need to add a lift, but will not have to fully conform to the new standards.

In general, the guidelines that exist for the design of a new pool do not necessarily apply to existing pools. For example, a competition lap pool (greater than 300 LF) that was designed and built in the 1960s with no access points in the pool (you have to jump in if you want to swim), will satisfy the ADA regulation by installing one lift. Similarly, a 12-inch deep baby pool without zero depth entry may not require anything, because it could be argued that creating a zero-depth entry pool is not Readily Achievable due to area available and/or cost associated.

 ADA Swimming Pool & Spa Guidelines Links

US Dept. of Justice
( &

Great Lakes ADA Center (

Ramaker & Associates' Janesville, WI YMCA Pool Project with a zero depth entrance wading pool and ramp to current channel and activity pool areas

Industry News

The following notes were generated by Ramaker & Associates from the July 27, 2011 IAAPA Webinar "New ADA Requirements for Waterparks". Anyone pursuing ADA compliance should contact their local pool licensing agency for specific questions regarding the application of ADA requirements.

Notes from July 27,2011 IAAPA Webinar

  • Timeline: 1992 - Original ADA law passed.
    September 2010 - Law was updated and published.
    March 2012 - Updated law is effective.
  • All new construction after March 2012 must comply with the 1992 and 2010 ADA requirements.
  • All facilities built prior to March 2012 shall meet "Readily Achievable" ADA requirements.
  • Slides and plunge pools are exempt from the 2010 updated requirements. However, ADA access must be provided to the stair tower entry and edge of the plunge pool (e.g. for someone to watch a friend come down the slide).
  • Multilevel play structures are required to have ADA access up to the stair tower entry and to the slide runout area.
  • Wading pool sloped entries ARE NOT required to have handrails.
  • Wave pools with sloped entries ARE required to have handrails, however they are exempt from the clear width requirement between handrails. This is an unresolved issue according to the presenters, as handrails may cause safety concerns with patrons in tubes crashing into handrails.

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Phone: 608-643-4100 or 800-332-7532 Fax: 608-643-7999 © Ramaker & Associates, Inc.