Aquatics Blog

Are Aquatic Wheel Chairs Flawed?

The Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations for public swimming pools define two primary means of access for aquatic facilities. These are swimming pool lifts and sloped entries.


The reason that these two means of access are designated as primary is that they can provide assistance to a wider variety of users then the secondary means of access. The secondary means of access are transfer walls, transfer systems, and accessible stairs.


One thing to keep in mind when selecting a primary means of access for a swimming pool is the ability of potential swimmers to use the selected means of access independently. The primary goal of the ADA is to create an environment where people with disabilities can independently participate in society. This is why one of the requirements for swimming pool lifts is that they be capable of independent operation. Sloped entries are a primary means of access, and serve as an excellent way to enter and exit a pool for ambulatory swimmers. Sloped entries are much safer than either steps or stairs, especially for seniors.


Some wheelchair users, however, may have a difficult time trying to independently enter a swimming pool using a sloped entry. The combination of the slope plus the added buoyancy and friction created by the water, make independently exiting a pool a real challenge for wheelchair users. Additionally, the design of most aquatic wheelchairs compounds the problem, by creating additional instability.


Please see the attached two videos that demonstrate the problems discussed in the previous paragraph. The first video shows the general problems with trying to independently use a wheelchair on a sloped entry. The second video was shot to present a better designed aquatic wheelchair. The second video was shot while the wheelchair was in its design phase.


In conclusion, sloped entries are wonderful means of access for ambulatory swimmers.  However, keep in mind who will be using this means of access, as it may not be the optimal way for some wheelchair users to get into a pool.

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