The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) testified today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution in support of reasonable pool and spa entry requirements for travelers with disabilities and called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to work for sensible measures that provide access while protecting children from harm.
AH&LA ADA Counsel Minh Vu, a partner with Seyfarth Shaw, testified that, “much to their (the lodging industry) surprise and dismay, the Department of Justice changed the rules on January 31, 2012 – only six weeks before the compliance deadline,” adding that “the DOJ violated the Administrative Procedures Act when it issued these substantive new requirements without public notice or comment. These requirements were never mentioned by the DOJ at any time in the rulemaking process and do not appear anywhere in the 2010 Final Rule.”
Many lodging operators had purchased, or were in the process of purchasing, portable pools lifts that would provide access for travelers with disabilities under the 2010 Standards. These lifts can be stored when not in use, and thus prevent children from playing on them and getting hurt or damaging expensive equipment. On January 31, 2012, the Justice Department reinterpreted the 2010 Standards to require all lifts to be permanently affixed to the pool deck and available any hour a pool or spa is open to the public. Affixing a pool lift requires demolition of a pool deck to electrically ground, or bond, the lift to the deck. Portable lifts complying with all requirements of the 2010 Standards require no changes to a pool deck and can be quickly secured into place for use at adjoining pools and spas.
Ms. Vu raised several lodging industry concerns, including:
- “The DOJ did not consider the increased risk of injury to children who will play on and jump off the pool lift into the shallow end of the pool. The Association recently submitted a report to DOJ from a national aquatic safety expert who opined that an unattended pool lift left beside the pool raises serious safety concerns that must be studied.”
- “The DOJ did not consider the risk of individuals with disabilities being injured while using an unattended lift that they have not used before.”
- “The DOJ did not consider the liability that businesses will face when children and other people injure themselves using unattended lifts.”
- “The DOJ did not consider the very real possibility that businesses will close their pools and spas in order to avoid being sued for lift injuries or, if they do not install a fixed lift, for not having one.”
AH&LA called on the Justice Department to withdraw the January 31, 3012, reinterpretation of the 2010 Standards and replace it with a guidance that allows the use of portable lifts that can be brought out upon request and shared between two pools or a pool and a spa in the same area. An extension of the compliance deadline would be necessary to ensure that enough lifts can be manufactured to equip all of the pools and spas that need lifts.
These new regulations will affect hundreds of thousands of pools and spas owned or operated by businesses and state and local governments. While the lodging industry fully supports the goals of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act and is committed to meeting the needs of all travelers, hoteliers are seeking a solution that achieves the dual purpose of accessibility and safety for all guests.