A worthy amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act requiring permanent wheelchair lifts to be installed at public swimming pools by Memorial Day Weekend is giving fits to operators of motels, municipal parks, fitness and recreation centers. Their concerns are understandable and the government should heed their call for yet another deadline extension.
First there was a lot of confusion over the rules, initially promulgated two years ago; followed by changes this spring that made compliance far more expensive; followed by a mad rush to comply by the May 21 deadline. Orders at the limited number of lift manufacturers are reportedly backlogged, and some pool owners say they can’t afford the lifts — particularly the new requirement that they not be portable, but permanently installed. (According to an AP story in Sunday’s Gazette, the lifts cost anywhere from $3,500 to $6,500, with installation costing a comparable amount.)
Consequently, a number of pool owners say they won’t be able to open this summer, lest they risk a fine as high as $55,000 for a first offense. That would be a shame, particularly because some pool owners went out and bought portable chair lifts before the government changed its mind and said they had to be permanently installed. There is concern about this requirement not just because of the added cost of installation but because of the liability of kids playing on or adults tripping over an idle pool lift. Why can’t they be kept out of harm’s way when they’re not in use, as long as signs indicate their availability and lifeguards or other pool personnel know how to use them?
The fact that demand for pool chair lifts has been minimal in some areas is no argument for scrapping the requirement, as some pool owners suggest. If they build them, people in wheelchairs will surely come to swim. But the rule needn’t be so onerous that compliance threatens small business owners and municipalities’ very existence. And, once clarified, adequate time needs to be given for compliance.