SAN FRANCISCO-The Department of Justice gave March 15 as the deadline for all hotel properties to install pool lifts for disabled guests who could not otherwise use the facilities independently. According to the DOJ, these lifts must be fixed, well-maintained, and exclusive to each pool.
Recently, Martin H. Orlilck, an Americans with Disabilities defense lawyer, sat down with GlobeSt.com’s Miriam Lamey to discuss the impending deadline and how the hotel industry has and will respond to the requirements.
A question and answer session follows:
GlobeSt.com: What do you think the new regulations mean for the industry?
Orlick:This requirement for accessible pool lifts is not new. The actual requirement has been around for the past 15 years. There have been advocacy groups and therapeutic practitioners who have been advocating for pool lifts for that long. And there were a lot of things that take a long time: It takes a while for the technology to catch up with the ideology. And so therapists and advocacy groups and individuals were pressing for pool lifts and other types of devices including health and fitness equipment while the technology didn’t exist. And there weren’t the right manufacturers; there were a lot of questions about what the standards should be for this type of device. In 2008,the Department of Justice made it clear that they were going to be developing some guidelines for accessible pools. But up until 2010 when these standards were approved, the only requirement was to [be able to] get someone with a disability to the pool.
GlobeSt.com: So what hospitality operators supposed to do after that?
Orlick: Well, that’s the point. But that was the extent of the law: you just needed an accessible path of travel to the pool. Not to get so much into the pool. And for the past number of years, disabled advocacy groups have been complaining about it. Some problems included that there was no way for people to get in or out of the pool, independently or with other assistance. So, an individual [with a disability] would be now paying for the pool that’s built into his or her rates, and they don’t get to use the pool facilities as anyone else would.
GlobeSt.com: What was the response?
Orlick: Well, the access board and Department of Justice worked on developing technical standards for a pool lift. And they’ve done that over the last couple of years. Now, the 2010 standards include scoping provisions – in other words, how many pool lifts does a hotel have to have, where they need to be and the technical requirements. Now, scoping requirements and technical requirements are part of 2010 standards. [The latter] define what the lift is supposed to look like, how it is supposed to operate and so on. The seat is supposed to be a certain size, the lift is supposed to drop 18 inches into the water, things like that.
GlobeSt.com: What does that mean to the industry?
Orlick: The industry is confused – it’s genuinely confused. It’s confused and I’m getting phone calls every day – every couple of hours! – from operators of hotels who are saying “what do I do?” And their concerns are in part financial, but they are not financially-driven. I don’t believe that. They are more driven to asking, “what does the Department of Justice actually require?” And “what does it mean as far as the operations of my property?”
Currently, the Department of Justice says you have to have fixed pool lifts and you can’t share a pool lift between water elements. At one has to be at each location because one of the main ideas of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to provide independent accessibility so that someone who’s disabled doesn’t have to wait for someone else to help. And so, for example, I as a disabled guest want to go for a swim because I can’t sleep at night. It makes sense that I want to be able to go down to the pool, get in the water and swim around and not have to wait for the 18 year old or the person on night duty help me get in or out of the pool, or in and out of the hot tub – the [hotel workers] are not trained to help someone who is disabled, who may have very specific needs and requirements.
It’s a whole different thing if that same person can go over to the chair lift, slide out of their wheelchair, transfer onto the lift, manually use the controls, swing out over the water, set themselves in and swim. And then when they’re done they can get out again – they don’t have to wait for anyone.
Click here for continuing discussion on
- What does the DOJ ultimately expect?
- How serious is this? What impact will it have on developers?
- What can we expect over the next year?