Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a story authored by Jeff Crider for Woodall’s Campground Management profiling pool lift providers and their boom in business with new ADA regulations pending. To read the entire article click here.
This has been a busy year for the Todd Harris Co. Inc.
The Edison, N.J.-based company supplies portable and permanent swimming pool lifts, which many campgrounds will be required to install by January 2013 to comply with the latest federal accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
But while the prospect of new federal regulations is creating new business opportunities for Todd Harris and other pool lift suppliers, uncertainties about the specific requirements of the new regulations are creating a lot of confusion in the industry.
Carl Bastedo, a regional sales representative for the company, said he routinely receives questions from park operators asking for guidance on the regulations. But even when a park makes a commitment to purchase pool lift equipment, there are several logistical questions that have to be worked out.
“Not all lifts will work with all pool profiles,” Bastedo said, adding that his company typically asks park operators to send photographs of their pools from different angles so that they can determine the best kind of lift to use for their pools.
Park operators also need to determine the weight capacities of the pool lifts they want to use and whether they want to exceed a 300-pound capability.
Park operators also need to take a broad perspective when considering a pool lift, Bastedo said, adding that people needing a pool lift may not only be wheelchair bound guests, but senior citizens with mobility issues or people who are grossly overweight.
“They may not have a hard time getting into the pool, but may need help getting out of it,” Harris said.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Justice has not spelled out exactly what characteristics constitute a person with disabilities nor is it very clear which parks can get by with a portable pool lift vs. a permanent lift.
The costs of pool lifts can be significant. Portable pool lifts range in price from about $5,400 to $6,600, depending on the model and weight capacity. Permanent pool lifts range from roughly $4,000 to $6,000 or $7,000 on the high end for the equipment alone.
These figures do not include the cost of installation, which is typically handled by outside contractors.
Park operators will have until Jan. 31, 2013, to comply with changes in accessibility requirements for swimming pools and spas under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Justice Department announced on its website Wednesday (May 16) that it plans to publish a new rule on May 21 with the Jan. 31st compliance date.
“Thanks to an effective team effort involving private park operators working in collaboration with our counterparts in the hotel industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others, we have achieved our initial objective, which was to extend the ADA compliance date until next year,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
However, the Justice Department has not yet signaled a willingness to consider revising its regulations to make it possible for campgrounds, RV parks and resorts to meet the latest ADA requirements with portable pool lifts. ARVC contends that portable pool lifts are equally accessible to the public as fixed pool lifts and would not create a safety hazard for children who may be attracted to the equipment.
ARVC and its affiliates have endorsed a bill proposed by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., that would allow portable pool lifts to meet the new ADA pool lift requirements.
“We have scored one of our goals with the Justice Department, but our opposition to the fixed lift issue will continue,” Bambei said, adding that ARVC’s government affairs counsel, the Washington D.C. law firm of McDermott Will & Emery is reviewing the Justice Department’s latest statements to determine the appropriate next steps for the campground industry on this issue.
ARVC’s proactive efforts on the ADA pool lift issue so far have included over 80 visits last week with U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill; letter-writing campaigns; a visit to the White House at the invitation of the administration to discuss the issue; an official written comment to the Department of Justice’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; as well as coordinated lobbying by ARVC and its partners in the hotel industry, which include such notables as the American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Resort Development Association, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the World Water Park Association.
Congressional representatives have also sent letters to top Justice Department officials in response to the outreach by the campground and hotel industries.
Representatives from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and its affiliates made a show of force in Washington, D.C., last week, holding 80 face-to-face meetings with members of the U.S. House and Senate to voice industry concern over recent changes proposed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its ADA pool lift guidance released on Jan. 31.
According to a press release, ARVC’s objective was to continue to “hammer home” the outdoor hospitality industry’s opposition to recently proposed federal guidelines that would require public accommodations, including campgrounds, RV parks and resorts, to install fixed, permanent pool lifts at every body of water on commercial property.
While ARVC supports the spirit and intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the association has called on the Justice Department to change its proposed guidelines to make it possible for campgrounds, RV parks and resorts to meet the latest ADA requirements with portable pool lifts, which ARVC contends are equally accessible to the public, but would not create a safety hazard for children who will be attracted to the apparatus.
ARVC and its affiliates have also endorsed a bill proposed by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., that would extend the compliance deadline for one year while also allowing portable pool lifts to meet the new ADA pool lift requirements.
The Justice Department is expected to announce this week if it has reached a decision on whether it will allow private parks, hotels and other hospitality businesses to accommodate disabled people with portable pool lifts or whether it needs more time to study the issue. The Justice Department previously issued a 60-day delay in enforcing its proposed pool lift requirements in response to a coordinated lobbying effort by ARVC and its coalition partners in the hospitality industry.
“Last week’s meetings represent the continuing pressure we are bringing to bear on the ADA pool lift issue, which has already succeeded in prompting the Justice Department to postpone the implementation timeline of new regulations while it considers possible changes to ADA pool lift requirements,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO.
Those efforts have included letter-writing campaigns; a visit to the White House at the invitation of the administration to discuss the issue; an official written comment to the Department of Justice’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that expired April 4, 2012; as well as coordinated lobbying by ARVC and its partners in the hotel industry, which include such notables as the American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Resort Development Association, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the World Water Park Association.
Congressional representatives have also sent letters to top Justice Department officials in response to the outreach by the campground and hotel industries.
Recently, Congressman, Bill Owens, D-N.Y., who met last week with fellow New Yorker and member of the ARVC Board of Directors, Truman Hartshorn, sent a letter to Allison Nichol, chief of the Justice Department’s Disability Rights Section, criticizing the burden that the department has placed on small businesses. “Your office’s total inflexibility to consider alternatives, such as a portable lift, demonstrates that this rule was poorly crafted and did not meaningfully incorporate any ideas or suggestions from the industries that will be affected,” Owens wrote. “I suggest you delay implementation of this rule and work with all the parties affected to come up with a more practical solution.”
Campground industry representatives also attending last week’s meetings included ARVC Chairman Rob Schutter of Leisure Systems, Inc.; ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei; ARVC Government Affairs Committee Chairman Al Johnson of Recreational Adventures Company, a Hill City, S.D. company that owns and operates multiple KOA campgrounds; Debbie Sipe of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds; Kathy Frederick and Sandra Brown of the Connecticut Campground Owners Association; Rick Abare of the Maine Campground Owners Association; Norman Gurevich of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds; Tracie Fisher of ARVC Michigan; Gregg Pittman of the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association; Joann DelVechio and Jay Sporl, Sr. of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association; Todd Kaser and Chip Hanawalt of the Ohio Campground Owners Association; Jim Breneman of the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association; Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group; Lori Severson of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners; Marcia Galvin of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners; and Jon Heidrich of Shangri-La RV Resort in Yuma, Ariz.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) threw private park operators a curve ball earlier this year when it published dramatic changes in accessibility requirements for swimming pool lifts under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
According to a press release generated by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), new regulations published Jan. 31 gave park owners only 45 days to install swimming pool lifts at their facilities – an “unrealistic timetable given the size of the campground industry and the relatively small numbers of pool lift providers,” according to ARVC.
DOJ officials also gave park operators differing interpretations of the new regulations, with some saying permanent pool lifts are required at every pool or body of water, while others said portable pool lift devices would suffice.
The 2010 ADA Standards gave park operators the option of installing either permanent or portable pool lifts to provide their disabled guests with access to pool, wading pool and spa facilities.
Given these contradictions, and the looming enforcement deadline, ARVC joined forces with the American Hotel & Lodging Association and other groups to call on the DOJ to revise its regulations to make it easier for small and medium size businesses to comply with the new regulations using portable pool lifts. ARVC and its industry partners have also asked the federal government to extend the deadline for compliance with the new regulations by six months.
ARVC submitted its latest comments on the ADA pool lift compliance issue to the Department of Justice on April 4, less than two weeks after ARVC joined its industry partners at a White House meeting to encourage the DOJ to revise its pool lift requirements.
Jeff Sims, ARVC’s director of state relations and program advocacy, is working closely with the Washington D.C. law firm of McDermott Will & Emery on the ADA pool compliance issue. In a recent Q & A, Sims addressed several key questions involving the history of the pool lift issue, where we’re at today, and what park operators can expect ARVC to do on this issue in the coming months:
Q: Were campgrounds, RV parks and resorts previously required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to make swimming and wading pools and spas accessible for the disabled?
Sims: No. Not until now. The ADA regulations and Standards for Accessible Design that were originally published in 1991 set the standard for what makes a facility accessible. And while the updated 2010 standards retain many of the original provisions of the 1991 standards, they do contain some significant differences. They are also used differently depending on whether you are altering an existing building, building a new facility or removing architectural barriers that have existed for years.
Q: When did the U.S. Department of Justice first indicate that portable pool lifts may not be compliant in some circumstances with ADA regulations?
Sims: On Jan. 31 of this year – Just two months before the deadline for compliance!
Q: Why is it important for ARVC members to be aware of these standards?
Sims: These standards can have a direct effect on park’s cost of doing business. This is also a civil rights issue about accessibility. The ADA’s regulations and the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, originally published in 1991, set the standard for what makes a facility accessible. While the updated 2010 Standards retain many of the original provisions in the 1991 Standards, they do contain some significant differences. These standards are the key for determining if a small business’s facilities are accessible under the ADA. However, they are used differently, depending on whether a small business is altering an existing building, building a brand new facility, or removing architectural barriers that have existed for years.
Q: Are there other facilities besides swimming pools that are subject to new ADA regulations?
Sims: Yes. The 2010 ADA Standards also set new accessibility requirements for exercise machines and equipment; fishing piers and platforms; miniature golf and regular golf facilities; play areas; recreational boating facilities; and residential facilities and dwelling units.
Q: Campground operators have received conflicting information from federal officials over what the Justice Department really required, particularly on the question of whether private parks could get by using portable pool lifts or whether they would be required to install permanent pool lifts for each swimming pool. Do we know even now what the federal government really required?
Sims: We asked the Department of Justice to revisit and revise its Jan. 31 guidance, which required a fixed pool lift (if readily achievable). The guidance also stated that a portable pool lift is not compliant in some circumstances. In expressing a preference for and requiring a fixed pool lift, the federal guidance is at variance with the 2010 Final Rule, which did not distinguish between fixed and portable lifts. Furthermore, we believe there has been no evidence presented during the rulemaking that demonstrably shows the superiority and necessity of a fixed pool lift. In our experience, a portable pool lift is functionally equivalent to a fixed lift in that it provides entry and exit from the pool or spa. It’s also a more affordable option for park operators in meeting these new requirements.
Q: When did ARVC get involved in monitoring the pool lift issue and intervening on behalf of private park operators on this issue?
Sims: I was hired on Jan. 15, 2011, and became aware of the issue nearly immediately. ARVC hired McDermott, Will & Emery in Washington, D.C. to head up our legal and lobbying efforts in April of 2011. They issued their first “Guidance for ARVC Members Regarding the New ADA Requirements for Pools and Spas” on May 11, 2011. On June 16, they provided additional guidance to ARVC members concerning the term “readily achievable” in Department of Justice parlance. They have since helped us develop an effective grass roots campaign on this issue.
Q: What has ARVC achieved to date on this issue?
Sims: ARVC has been the leader in providing information concerning the new ADA Standards to the campground industry. Working with our coalition partners and our members, we were able to convince U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to delay the implementation of new ADA rules regarding swimming and wading pools for at least 60 days. That means the compliance deadline has been pushed back to May 15th. The Department of Justice also published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which solicited comments on whether or not it should delay the implementation of the new rules for pools and spas 180 days. ARVC organized a letter writing campaign to provide NPRM input on behalf of campground owners to insure our common voice was heard.
Q: What other business groups are working with us on the ADA issue?
Sims: We are working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the American Resort Development Association, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the National Apartment Association, the National Multi Housing Council, The Real Estate Roundtable, and the World Water Park Association. There is strength in numbers and that is how we have been able to leverage ARVC’s voice.
Q: What did ARVC request of the Justice Department in its April 4 letter?
Sims: We stated that our members are very strong supporters of the spirit and intent of the ADA. However, we noted that the technical assistance document or “guidance” published by the Department of Justice on Jan. 31 is confusing, at variance with the 2010 Final Rule, and problematic for those of us who fully intend to comply with the ADA’s requirements. We, therefore, called on the Department of Justice to revisit and revise its Jan. 31 guidance. We noted that the department had failed to consider the financial burden permanent pool lift requirements would place on our members, not only for the equipment itself but for the required electrical bonding under the National Electrical Code and for the reconstruction of pool decks. We also noted that the installation of fixed pool lifts also requires building permits and construction work that can take additional time, and that places public accommodations at risk of being sued for non-compliance. In any event, a sufficient supply of fixed pool lifts is simply not currently available, according to a representative of pool lift manufacturers who met with Obama administration officials on March 26. We also urged the Department of Justice to make clear that public accommodations may store portable pool lifts and make them available after determining at check-in whether a disabled patron wishes to use the accommodation’s pool or spa. Additionally, we urged the Department of Justice to allow public accommodations to share portable pool lifts among pools and spas. In fact, such a requirement could make more pools and spas accessible to disabled patrons.
Q: What happens now?
Sims: The Department of Justice is considering nearly 1,400 comments that were submitted on the topic of extending the compliance date for 180 days, which leads us to believe the extension may be attainable. However, many advocacy groups for the disabled have argued that the compliance date should not be extended at all. Meanwhile, ARVC and other organizations are continuing to argue that the Justice Department should not require fixed pool lifts and that portable pool lifts should be compliant. Legislation has also been introduced in Congress to delay the implementation date and to the allow the use of portable pool lifts. But passage of such legislation seems unlikely. ARVC members should, therefore, continue to make their voices heard to their representatives on this issue. This will be a key topic ARVC members who are attending the National Issues Conference in Washington, D.C .on May 9 will be addressing in private Congressional meetings.
Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday (March 15) approved a 60-day extension that will push the compliance date for the pool lift requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to May 15 following an aggressive letter writing campaign orchestrated by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and other business groups.
According to a press release from ARVC, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is also considering extending the compliance date for six months in order to provide the government additional time to address misunderstandings involving the new ADA requirements. The DOJ will open a 15-day public comment period on the department’s proposal to extend the compliance date for six months following publication of the proposal in the Federal Register.
“This extension wouldn’t have happened without the participation of ARVC members from across the country who contacted their representatives requesting that more time be allotted to them to understand and comply with the proposed pool lift regulations,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO.
ARVC has been working closely with a coalition of several business groups to encourage the federal government to provide more time to businesses to comply with new regulations regarding the provision of accessible entry and exit equipment to provide disabled people with access to existing swimming pools, wading pools, and spas. Businesses have also been confused by the government’s requirements and have requested greater clarity to guide them in their compliance efforts.
ARVC’s industry partners include the American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Resort Development Association, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the National Apartment Association, the National Multi Housing Council, The Real Estate Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the World Water Park Association.
For more information on the ADA requirements and the extension of the compliance deadline by the Department of Justice, visit www.ada.gov.