By: Kara M. Maciel

As hoteliers and hospitality employers know, the upcoming March 15, 2012 deadline for the 2010 ADA Standards will have significant impact on hotel operations. Some of the regulations involve new features that previously had not been regulated by the ADA, including swimming pools, spas, exercise facilities, golf and sauna and steam rooms.  All newly constructed recreational facilities built after March 15, 2012 must comply with the new standards; whereas, existing facilities must meet the new standards as soon as readily achievable.  For hoteliers, some of the most common elements that will affect operations immediately will be pools & spas.   

Pools & Spas Compliance Standards

The new standards require access which mandates either adding a pool lift or renovating the swimming pool and spa entirely depending on the size of the pool:

·         For pools less than 300 feet, there must be at least one means of access with either a sloped entry or a lift.

·         For pools 300 feet or longer, there must be two means of access with the primary means of access either a sloped entry or a lift. 

·         A wading pool must have a sloped entry. 

If the hotel opts for a pool lift, that also must meet specific requirements under the ADA 2010 Standards on elements such as seat height and width, foot and arm rests, controls, lifting capacity and submerged depth. 

For spas, the regulations are similar and the spa equally must be accessible with at least one required means of access through either a sloped entry or a lift. If the resort has more than one spa, then at least 5 percent of the total number should be accessible.     

Questions for Compliance

The cost of compliance could be expensive for hotel owners, especially in a difficult economy. For those hoteliers that already have pools & spas, the owners must remove the access barriers only to the extent they are readily achievable. Readily achievable means easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. Thus, if your property has the resources to make the necessary modifications, such as purchasing a pool lift, then such modifications should be accomplished by the March 15 deadline. 

If the cost of compliance is not readily achievable, hoteliers would be prudent to budget and plan for updating its access barriers as soon as possible. Of course, that does not relieve the entity from exploring other ways to provide access to guests with disabilities, such as providing staff assistance. 

Risks of Non – Compliance

Failing to comply can be costly for the hotel owner and operator. Not only is there an increased threat of lawsuits and complaints from the overzealous plaintiffs’ bar, but the Department of Justice has raised the stakes for violations, in the amount of $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation. 

Stay tuned for additional articles on compliance questions under the ADA.