They had nine extra months, but come this week, public pool operators such as hotels must make sure they have lifts at the pools for disabled patrons.
The deadline to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act rules was extended to Thursday after pool operators nationally lobbied for more time because of ongoing questions about the new rules. It was the second deadline extension after ongoing questions from the hospitality industry, some of which have been answered, officials said.
The U.S. Department of Justice said that it had several concerns that led to the extension, including misunderstandings among pool operators, a shortage of lifts available for pool operators to buy and talk of some operators planning to close their pools when that may not have been warranted. The delay frustrated advocates for the disabled, who said pool operators had had since 2010 when the rules were approved to get ready.
“There are a lot of interpretations to this, and there is still a lot of discussion about it,” said Stephen Greene, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association. “There has been some clarification.”
The rule has a sweeping affect on tourism-dependent Horry County, which has nearly 2,400 active public pools – the most of any county in South Carolina.
The intent of the rule was to give disabled patrons the same access to pools as other guests. Hospitality leaders said they agree with the spirit of the law, but questioned some of the stipulations such as the requirement to have a lift for each body of water – which can add up for a resort that has multiple pools, a lazy river and spa, they said.
“It’s definitely going to have an impact on us – no doubt,” Greene said. “There’s still a lot of concerns. … No matter what, the 31st is the deadline and you need to be prepared with a plan. We are urging members to review properties for compliance.”
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