Accessibility is a major concern for people with disabilities. Years before George H. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with disabilities and guardians of children with disabilities began confronting the social restrictions that prevented them from participating as members of their community.
At the time, discriminatory policies were commonplace and handicap accessibility was rare. People with disabilities began awareness campaigns about the unjust policies and congress used the federal might to open public transportation, jobs, and public accommodation to disabled Americans. But it wasn't until 23 years later that swimming pools came under the same federal mandate.
In the first week of February 2013, most wading pools, spas, and public swimming pools were mandated to be accessible to disabled people in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Facilities that failed to meet the requirements were liable to face civil penalties of $55,000.
The move had been in force for a couple of years prior though. In 2010, the Justice Department released standards for accessibility and announced March 2012 as the deadline for compliance. However, confusion over the requirements was so contentious that pool operators warned of pool closures from coast to coast in a move tagged "Poolmagedden".
The Department of Justice in response to the contentions pushed the deadline to January 31, 2013, grandfathered in equipment bought by pool operators during the uproar, and clarified the rule. It was also reiterated by the Justice Department that pool operators only need to provide access to their current pools if the process was "readily achievable”. That is if it did not involve major expenses or significant difficulty.
Today, business pools and spas must adhere to ADA requirements, so before we continue let's have a look at what these rules are and how they affect business and residential use, and their applicability to differing situations.
ADA Requirements for Swimming Pools
If a private or public entity with a pool falls within the following 2 categories they are mandated to provide accessible means of entry for swimming pools and spas in compliance with ADA requirements:
- Public Industry: This contains a county, school district, municipality, and city.
- Private Industry: This contains recreation, lodging, education facilities, etc.
Swimming pools in public or private industrial entities must comply with the following rules:
- Any pool with more than 300 linear feet of pool wall must have 2 means of access. One of which must be a sloped entry or pool lift. The other means of access for big pools can be any of the 5 approved means of access which are transfer walls, swimming pool lifts, accessible pool stairs, transfer systems, or sloped entries.
- Spas require either a transfer system, transfer wall, or a pool lift.
- Wading pools must have a sloped entry.
- Any pool with a pool wall lower than 300 linear feet has to provide one means of access. The means can either be a sloped entry or a pool lift.
- If a pool uses a portable lift it must be fastened to the pool anchor or deck during usage or operating hours.
- Using a non-fixed portable lift is permitted when the installation of a fixed unit isn't readily achievable.
- A fixed portable lift must need tools to be removed from its fastened location.
- Each water body requires its unique form of access.
- Each type of access is required to be poolside and ready to use during business hours.
Beyond these straightforward requirements, there are a couple of questions that the ADA deals with for specific situations. Here are a few of them:
Do Community Pools have to Provide an Accessible Means of Entry and Exit?
Community pools that are connected with private residential communities and are restricted to the sole use of residents and their guests are not expected to comply with ADA accessibility requirements. However, if a swimming club or pool located in a residential community is open to the general public for usage or rentals, it is covered under the above-listed ADA requirements. Also, if a community pool is operated or owned by a local government or state entity, it is covered under the ADA requirements, which mandate program accessibility.
Are there Tax Deductions or Credits to help You Comply with ADA Requirements?
Yes. To help businesses comply with the ADA, section 190 of the IRS code permits tax deduction for all businesses and section 44 of the IRS code permits tax credit for small businesses. The tax credit is available for organizations that have 30 staff or less, and a revenue of $1,000,000 or less in the preceding year. This offered credit can cover 50% of all eligible access expenditures in one year up to $10,000 with a maximum credit of $5000.
The tax credit can be used for purchasing particular adaptive equipment, offsetting the cost of alterations to improve accessibility, and removing barriers to the same.
Tax deductions are available to any business with a maximum deduction of $15,000 annually. The tax deductions are claimable for expenses incurred in barrier alterations and removal.
If I have a Pool and a Spa or Two Pools, can I Share a Swimming Pool Lift between them?
For new constructions, each pool or spa would need to provide an accessible exit and entry. In existing pools, whether each spa or pool must have a unique lift or other accessible means of entry is entirely dependent on if it is readily available. If it isn't, it doesn't imply that the pool or spa should shut down but that it should make plans to install company-compliant swimming pool lifts when it is readily available.
Sharing swimming pool lifts between pools poses safety risks as swimmers with disabilities may be unable to get out of the pool if a lift has been relocated to another pool. It also forces people with disabilities to rely on staff assistance to locate, move, and build a lift every time.
Can a Business Store Its Pool Lift and Bring it Out only when Required by a Swimmer with Disability?
No. Your pool lift must remain in place and be operational whenever the pool is open to the public. People with disabilities have long dealt with portable accessibility challenges such as; equipment being missing, staff being too busy and unavailable to help find the equipment, and available staff not knowing how to properly and safely set up the equipment.
Plus, the ADA requirements demand that a pool lift must be located at the stated water depth, and with the necessary space required to maneuver a wheelchair. Constantly relocating a portable lift increases the probability that the pool lift will be improperly located, which makes it dangerous or difficult to use.
Considerations when Purchasing a Pool Lift
Before buying a pool lift for your pool or spa there are a couple of factors to keep in mind:
Type of Pool or Spa
Your type of pool or spa can directly impact your pool lift choice. For example, is your pool commercial or residential? If it is commercial then you can't get just any pool lift, you'll need to buy an ADA-compliant pool lift. Here’s a visual of the ADA compliant Revolution Power pool lift from Aqua Creek:
This means you have to consider getting a permanent or fixable portable pool lift as per ADA guidelines. You’ll also need to get a pool lift that supports a minimum of 300 pounds, and provide one or two entries or exits depending on the size of your pool.
Here are a couple of additional options that satisfy ADA requirements:
- RANGER 2 POWERED POOL LIFT ADA COMPLIANT BY AQUA CREEK
- ROTATIONAL SERIES ELECTRIC POOL LIFT R-375 BY GLOBAL LIFT CORP
- MOTION TREK 350 ADA COMPLIANT POOL LIFT BY SPECTRUM AQUATICS
- THE SPA LIFT ULTRA POOL LIFT BY AQUA CREEK
That said, a primary reason your type of pool or spa can limit the swimming pool lifts you can purchase is measurement. Each pool lift is applicable for use in specific pool measurements to avoid hazards. And if you run a commercial pool, ADA guidelines demand particular lifts for specific pool dimensions. Let's see a couple of measurement examples.
Deck to Water Draft
The water draft is measured from the top of your deck to the point the water starts in the pool. Most pools will have a water draft that's less than 9 inches. This will work for most lifts. The Ranger 2 pool lift from Aqua Creek, for example, offers a 14-inch deck to water draft measurements, which implies it can work with the standard pool measurement. However, if your water draft is over 9 inches you would require a pool lift with a long stroke to ensure that the seat of the pool lift is submerged 18 inches or more.
Another measurement to consider is the width of the coping. This determines what pool lift options will work for your pool. Usually, the standard coping is 12 inches to 14 inches wide and this can accommodate most pool lifts. In such cases, you'll need to install the front anchors at a minimum of 4 to 6 inches back from the coping and expansion joint.
Clear Deck Space
If your pool is a commercial one, you must adhere to ADA guidelines and one of the requirements is that you set your lift back from the pool's edge so that the middle of the seat is a minimum of 16 inches from the edge of the pool. And there is at least 36 to 42 inches of clear deck space beside the lift.
An ADA-compliant clear deck space starts at 29.5 inches for a minimum pool lift setback of 14.5 inches. But if the setback is up to 19 inches your clear deck space should start from 34 inches from the pool wall.
If you have a commercial project then the pool lift you choose must be installable in a location where the water depth is 48 inches or lower. The standard depth is 42 to 48 inches. However, if your pool depth is more than 48 inches this does not apply.
Anchoring your Pool Lift
There are 2 types of pool lifts you can buy, portable or permanent. Here's a visual of a portable pool lift and a permanent one.
The option you choose is primarily dependent on if your pool is a private or commercial project. This is due to ADA requirements that all commercial pools must adhere to. How does this relate to anchoring? Let’s see.
Portable pool lifts are just as they sound - movable. If you get a portable pool lift you'll be able to move it away from the pool for storage or use elsewhere. While that's great, if you have a commercial pool that must comply with ADA guidelines you cannot use a portable pool lift at least for what it was made for.
This is because ADA guidelines state that a pool lift should not be moved from one location to another due to safety concerns and ease of use. So if you do go for a portable pool lift then you need to get anchor fittings for it. Here’s a visual of a pool lift anchor:
That said, if you have a residential pool or private community pool then it isn't compulsory to get anchors for your portable pool lifts.
Permanent Pool Lifts
Unlike the portable pool lift, permanent pool lifts are not removable and adhere out of the box to ADA placement guidelines, which state that a pool lift must always be in place. This ensures that disabled persons do not have to bother about needing assistance to set up and use the pool lift.
Now, certain lifts can only be anchored using concrete, while others have a range of options like Wood Deck or Pavers anchors, like the Ranger 2 from Aqua Creek. So you must check the owner's manual as every pool lift has unique requirements. Even when using the same type of anchor. For example, some pool lifts can be installed into a typical 6-inch thick concrete deck while others must have a thicker pad of concrete poured to support their chair lift safely.
Also, the installation requirements differ. Some pool lifts have one post that slides into an anchor socket while others have a Jig. This is a plate with 3 or 4 bolts sticking out of the concrete.
If you have an existing anchor and want to retrofit it, many pool models allow this using an epoxy or hole saw. Your installer would have to drill a couple of holes through the pool deck and with a 2-part epoxy sealant cover the holes to secure the mounting plate to the pool deck.
But the concrete thickness required may be as high as 6 to 10 inches on particular pool lift model anchors. The standard anchor for EZ Pool Lift from Aqua Creek is a great example:
For some models, the standard 4-inch thick pool deck is sufficient, which makes the installation process simpler and cheaper.
This is a complicated type of installation as the anchor socket or mounting plate has to be bonded in compliance with your local codes.
So you must hire a reputable installer that is conversant with ADA anchor requirements and your local codes to anchor your pool lift if you need to buy a permanent pool lift or fix a portable one.
It's also a best practice to check in with your local inspector or county official before installing a permanent pool lift to be certain they approve of your installation, location, and bonding.
Also, ensure you understand the installation guideline of a pool lift before purchasing. If you have more questions about this, just give one of our experts at Wheelchair Liberty a call at 888-998-8840.
Type of Disability
Every pool lift provides transitional support, however, this is typically based on the kind of disability they are built to cater to. For example, certain lifts such as Ranger 2 by Aqua Creek come with additional features like a chest and head strap, or our sling seats for particular needs. But these extra features will not be needed for individuals with modest disabilities like arthritis to enter or exit the pool. So before buying a pool lift you would want to consider the type of disability it will cater to. This will save you additional costs or having to replace your pool lift after purchase.
If you operate a commercial pool then your pool lift must be ADA compliant and concerning weight this implies that it must support a minimum of 300 pounds. Pool lifts must also be capable of sustaining a minimum static load of one and a half times the rated load. However, the ADA mentions that pool lifts must be provided that satisfy the needs of the population they cater to, so providing pool lifts greater than 300 pounds is recommended.
That said, some pool lifts are designed for bariatric use and support over 450 pounds:
Frequency of Use
Depending on how frequently you intend to use your pool lift you may need to use either a portable pool lift or a permanent one. If you intend to use the pool lift once in a while installing a permanent lift won't be the best option. Rather a portable lift, like the Mighty Voyager by Aqua Creek, that you can remove and store would be the better choice.
Alternatively, if you need to use your pool lift consistently like if you run a community pool, a permanent option would be the better option. However, most portable pool lifts have extras that you can add to them to make them usable for permanent purposes.
Your budget will ultimately affect the type of pool lift you can go for. Typically the price range of pool lifts is from $2000 to $10,000 on average depending on the features included in the pool lift. That said, some specialty lifts like Glacier Water Powered Lift from Spectrum Aquatics can cost upwards of $50,000.
Pool lifts are built in a variety of styles. Some are moderate in appearance and don't drown the tranquil look of your pool deck or spa. Others take up more space and overwhelm the pool deck.
When it comes to aesthetics take into account features like rotating systems, lift installation status (temporary or permanent), color, etc. These go a long way to determining the aesthetics of your pool.
If you're going for a particular color scheme, for example, at your pool and want to get a pool lift you don't have to let that go. Certain pool lifts like the Ranger 2 or the Scout Excel come with different color seats at no additional charge.
This is what you intend to use your pool lift for. Do you want to use it in a spa, on an onceanfront pool, above-ground pool, etc. Your planned use for the lift will ultimately decide the best fit for your project.
Battery Operated or Manual
There are 3 primary options when determining the power options of your pool lift: hydraulic (this uses water pressure from the pool), manual (hand crank), and battery operated.
The type of pool lift (portable or permanent) usually determines the power source used. Portable lifts, for instance, are usually battery-powered and are rechargeable between each use when plugged into a power source. Permanent lifts, on the other hand, are usually battery-powered or water powered. That said, a couple of permanent pool lifts use the manual crank.
Alternatives to Pool Lifts for Accessibility
If the considerations of pool lifts constrain you from purchasing one, or you need an additional accessibility tool, there are a couple of other options for pool accessibility also approved by the ADA. These options include our portable ceiling lift with a portable ceiling lift track and pool ramps.
How to Care for Your Pool Lift and Battery
Pool lifts, like any other device, begin to wear without regular and proper maintenance. Considering that a pool lift is a large investment, maintenance is necessary to protect it and keep it working in optimal condition.
The main purpose of pool lift maintenance is to have a pool lift that is safe to use for people with disabilities and one that works properly. Besides this primary objective, the goal of maintenance is ensuring that salt oxidation and chlorine oxides stay at a minimum.
Pool lifts are always around chlorinated water beyond when they are being put into the pool during use. And because of this, they can quickly and easily build corrosion and deposits on their metal parts. This is true even for powder-coated steel and stainless steel.
You also want to ensure that your battery, hinges, gears, joints, and terminals are kept clear of oxidation which will ultimately result in putting of the lift's metal surfaces. In general, pool lifts are basic devices with only 2 troubleshooting possibilities: electrical or mechanical.
That said, whether your pool is indoor or outdoor determines the frequency of maintenance you'll need. Indoor pools usually have poor air quality where you can smell chloramines or chlorine. What you're smelling are airborne chlorides that quickly attach to the metal parts of the device.
For outdoor pools using liquid chlorine, the damage level will be at the lowest point. But for indoor pools or oceanfront pools, the maintenance task should be at maximum.
Here's the weekly maintenance checklist:
- Check the water pressure and battery charge level
- Store or cover the pool lift during closing hours
- Inspect your pool lift for missing items and damage
- Rinse your pool lift with hose water and ensure you wipe all parts dry
For monthly maintenance:
- Lubricate the joints of your pool lift with a recommended lube from the manufacturer
- Clean the lifts battery terminals and put dielectric grease on them
- Inspect, wipe, and lubricate all rotational gears
- Check the bolt's tightness in the footrest, joints, and seats
- If the pool lift features powder-coated steel wax it with automotive wax
- Scrub out accumulated stains or rust using a scouring pad
- Clean the entire pool lift with soap and water then wipe all parts dry
- Inspect full operation of the lift
Additional maintenance tips include:
- Store your spare pool lift battery in a dry, cool place with climate control
- When not in use store the portable pool lift indoors but not close to chlorine
- Go through the owner's manual for service and parts schedules
- Be watchful of the lift's weight capacity to prevent hazards
- Use pool lift covers when the device is not in use to protect it from dirt, sun, and rain
- If you use a battery-operated remote for your pool lift, ensure you have extra batteries nearby
Now, for customers who don't want to worry about needing to always charge their lift's battery, Aqua Creeks offers solar charging for their batteries.
Which Pool Lift Should I Buy?
Currently, there are 3 leading pool lift brands: Aqua Creek, Spectrum Aquatics, and Global. Let's see the top sellers for each brand.
This best seller from Aqua creek stands out first for its customizable options and ADA compliance at a reasonable price point. The lift comes with the following aesthetic customizations:
- White with blue seat
- White with grey seat
- White with tan seat
- White with white seat
- Or you can order custom colors
Beyond the available aesthetics customizations, the Ranger 2 features a 350 lbs weight capacity, UL certification, 14-inch deck to water draft, and an adjustable base plate. It is also a battery-powered pool lift and is best for backyard pools and small hotels.
- ADA Compliant
- UL Certified
- 350 lb. (160 kg) weight capacity
- Setback range 14.5” - 19” (37 – 48 cm)
- Water draft 14”
- Field Reversible
- Adjustable base plate
- Flip-up armrests
- All stainless steel construction
- Durable powder coat finish
- Rechargeable battery & wall mount charger
The pool lift can also be independently operated using a waterproof 2-button remote.
- Chest strap
- A pull-out leg rest with color customization options is available
- Anchor kit, standard with 4-inch inserts
- Solar charging station
- Cycle attachment
- Transport cart
- Anchor kit, standard with 8-inch inserts for use with pavers
- Anchor kit, quick attach with 4-inch inserts
- Anchor kit, wood deck applications
- Cover, Standard lockable with different colors
- Adjustable seat pole
This electric pool lift by Global Lift Corp can rotate to 360 degrees to the right and left. The electric pool can also extend to 36 inches from the anchor to put the user in the water. There's also a lockout key that locks the lift system when it isn't in use. Then there's the return feature that returns the user out of the water if there's a control malfunction.
This electric pool lift has a weight capacity of 375 pounds and is ADA compliant as well.
- Stainless Steel build
- ADA Compliant Pool Lift
- Powder Coat Finish
- 375 lb. Lift weight Capacity
- Battery Powered 24-Volt System
- User-Friendly Controls
- Lifetime Structural Warranty
- Arm Rests
- Foot Rest
- Safety Seat Belt
- UPS Packaging for Easy Shipping
- Compatible with both Spas and Pools Clears obstacles up to 14″ tall
- UV Resistant
- Adapter to fit other anchors
- Includes Battery Charging Station
- Sleeve Anchor System
- Rotates both right and left by 360 degrees
- Works with most existing anchors 1.9″ x 6″ deep
This wireless and battery-powered pool lift is self-operable from the deck and water. The Horizon Aquatic Pool Lift can support both above and in-ground pools with a weight capacity of up to 450 pounds. With one battery charge, the lift can perform up to 90 lifts. The device is built from stainless steel and it has a powder coating to match your specific pool setting.
It also features continuous 360-degree power rotation and can support a setback of 6 to 40 inches and a water draft of up to 12 inches. The device is great for therapy pool applications
- 90 lifts for each battery charge
- Spacious seat with lumbar support
- Power color coating to match your pool setting
- Weight capacity of 450 pounds
- Stainless steel build
- 360-degree continuous power rotation
- It can be used for both above-ground and in-ground pools
- Lifting competent does not require help from a pool assistant
Where to Buy the Best Pool Lift
We've seen ADA requirements for installing a pool lift on commercial pools, the various considerations for choosing the best pool lift, and the best seller products. Now, all that's left is to make the decision. You know the requirements, how to choose the perfect lift and which options to go for, so why not make the decision now?
At Wheelchair Liberty we offer the best pool lifts recommended by both users and experts. Here you'll find ADA-compliant lifts, customizable lifts, and a variety of quality options to take your pick from.