The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design & Swimming Pools: When are Pools Required to Comply with the New Standards?


Under the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design newly designed or newly constructed and altered swimming pools, wading pools, aquatic recreation facilities and spas have enforceable accessibility requirements effective March 2012, which include a requirement to provide at least one accessible route into these types of elements.

PoolAccessibility Services staff have received numerous requests from owners/operators of facilities that contain pools to clarify how these new standards apply to existing pools. Below is a summary of compliance dates and information on how existing pools are affected for both Title II (state & local government facilities) and Title III (places of public accommodation) entities.

For newly constructed and altered pools, Section 242 of the 2010 ADA Standards contains the scoping for accessibility requirements. The technical requirements for the design of these required accessibility features in pools are found in Section 1009. Both the scoping and technical requirements can be accessed via this link:

Application of the 2010 Design Standards to Existing Pools (not undergoing alterations)

Title II Entities:

(Note that Title II of the ADA covers all activities of State and local governments regardless of the government entity’s size or receipt of Federal funding).

For Title II entities, March 15, 2012 is the compliance date for using the 2010 Standards for new construction, alterations, program accessibility, and barrier removal. On or after March 15, 2012, public entities must consider the supplemental requirements (such as those for swimming pools) in the 2010 Standards to assess their compliance with program accessibility.

Program Access is a term unique to Title II entities. Essentially, a public entity’s services, programs, or activities, when viewed in their entirety, must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. “Program Accessibility,” applies to all existing facilities of a public entity. Public entities, however, are not necessarily required to make each of their existing facilities accessible. Public entities may achieve program accessibility by a number of methods. In many situations, providing access to facilities through structural methods, such as alteration of existing facilities and acquisition or construction of additional facilities, may be the most efficient method of providing program accessibility. The public entity may, however, pursue alternatives to structural changes in order to achieve program accessibility. Nonstructural methods include acquisition or redesign of equipment, assignment of aides to beneficiaries, and provision of services at alternate accessible sites. A public entity may not deny the benefits of its programs, activities, and services to individuals with disabilities because its facilities are inaccessible.

Title III Entities:

(Note that Title III of the ADA covers places of public accommodations- private entities who own, lease, leasePool to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors’ offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs).

For Title III entities March 15, 2012 is the compliance date for the 2010 Standards, including the supplemental requirements for which there are no technical or scoping requirements in the 1991 Standards (such as swimming pools). Public accommodations must comply with the 2010 Standards’ supplemental requirements in existing facilities to the extent readily achievable.

The standard applied to Title III entities in existing facilities is known as “readily achievable barrier removal” – which is different than the standard applied to Title II entities (program accessibility) as explained above.

Essentially, physical barriers to entering and using existing places of public accommodation facilities must be removed when “readily achievable.” Readily achievable means “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.” It is important to note that what is readily achievable will be determined on a case-by-case basis in light of the resources (including financial resources) available. Some examples of barrier removal include: installing ramps, making curb cuts at sidewalks and entrances, rearranging tables, chairs, vending machines, display racks, and other furniture, widening doorways, installing grab bars in toilet stalls, and adding raised letters or braille to elevator control buttons. First priority should be given to measures that will enable individuals with disabilities to “get in the front door,” followed by measures to provide access to areas providing goods and services.

In summary, unlike private entities under title III, public entities are not required to remove barriers from each facility, even if removal is readily achievable. A public entity must make its “programs” accessible. Physical changes to a building are required only when there is no other feasible way to make the program accessible. Title II entities will have to evaluate the pools that they have available for use and determine whether or not program access is achieved for people with disabilities. It will be up to the Title II entity to determine how they will achieve “Program Access” to pools and ultimately whether or not structural modifications are necessary to achieve program access, or if they have achieved program access by some other means (i.e. providing one accessible pool at the local community center that complies with the 2010 ADA Design Standards).

In contrast, barriers must be removed from places of public accommodation under title III where such removal is “readily achievable,” without regard to whether the public accommodation’s services can be made accessible through other methods. So if for example a hotel has a pool that is inaccessible, and it does not undergo any alterations after March 15, 2012, the operator of the pool still has an obligation to investigate if it is “readily achievable” to remove the barriers to access at the pool and provide access by installing a pool lift, transfer steps, etc…. The evaluation of what is readily achievable, once again, will vary depending on a number of factors including the financial resources of the place of public accommodation.

Alterations to Existing Pools

The U.S. Department of Justice has provided guidance on the application of the 2010 Design Standards to pools that undergo an alteration for both Title II and III entities. When pools are altered, those alterations are covered under section 202.3 of the 2010 Standards and the definition of “alteration” is provided in section 106.5. A physical change to a swimming pool which affects or could affect the usability of the pool is considered to be an alteration. Changes to the mechanical and electrical systems, such as filtration and chlorination systems, are not alterations. Exception 2 to section 202.3 permits an altered swimming pool to comply with applicable requirements to the maximum extent feasible if full compliance is technically infeasible. “Technically infeasible” is also defined in section 106.5 of the 2010 Standards.

When pools are altered and made accessible, there are several options that may be used to provide access into the water, including pool lifts, sloped entries, transfer walls, transfer steps and pool stairs. Large pools (any pool with over 300 linear feet of pool wall) must have a minimum of two accessible means of entry. The primary means of entry must be either a sloped entry into the water or a pool lift that is capable of being independently operated by a person with a disability. The secondary means of entry could be a pool lift, sloped entry, transfer wall, transfer system, or pool stairs. It is recommended that where two means of entry are provided, they be different types and be situated on different pool walls. Pools with less than 300 linear feet of pool wall are only required to provide one accessible means of entry, which must be either a pool lift or sloped entry.

Should you have additional questions about the accessibility of pools, feel free to contact Jennifer Perry, Accessibility Services at 718.803.3782 #7504.