The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that most commercial pools and spas provide access for the disabled. For many facilities, this will require the purchase and installation of an ADA-compliant pool lift. There are a variety of pool lifts to choose from and pros and cons for each. We'll go over some of the main types and features here to help make selecting a lift easier.
The ADA pool lift code regarding access to public pools and spas is somewhat complicated as there are a number of exceptions and special circumstances. In general, it applies to most existing and new commercial pools and spas. To be sure of what is required for your particular facility, it is best to read the law itself and contact the ADA with any questions.
Most public pools are now required to have at least one primary means of entry, either a pool lift or sloped entry. If the pool has less than 300 linear feet of pool wall, only one accessible entry is required. For pools with over 300 linear feet, an additional form of access is required. This second entry includes a number of options such as a lift, ramp, stairs or a transfer wall or system.
Due to the expense of renovating to add a ramp or transfer wall, not to mention down time during construction, pool lifts are an ideal solution to meet the ADA requirements. There are three main types of swimming pool lifts to choose from - portable, removable and permanent.
Portable pool lifts are on wheels and can be moved to allow access in different locations. There is some minor assembly and set-up for portable lifts but no involved installation. This makes them the most flexible and convenient entry system but also the most expensive of the three types. A portable pool lift is battery-powered and uses brakes and weights to keep it in place while in use. Portable pool lifts allow you to have disabled access available and still have an unobstructed deck for events, maintenance, etc. Though on wheels, these lifts are still fairly heavy; if you are considering a portable life, be sure someone at your facility is physically capable of moving it.
Removable pool lifts offer some flexibility as well. They are installed into a sleeve in the pool deck and can be removed as needed. This allows you to use the same lift in multiple locations; you just need to have a sleeve installed at each point of access. When the pool lift is removed, the sleeve is covered by a protective cap. Installing the sleeve does require drilling into the pool deck and installation requirements will vary by deck type and by the brand of pool lift. So you will want to factor in this cost when determining which type of pool lift is best for your facility.
Permanent pool lifts remain fixed in one spot once installed, attached to an anchor underneath the deck. These lifts cost the least of the three types however, as with removable lifts, there will be a cost associated with installing hardware into the deck. A permanent pool lift is ideal for frequent use and in situations where an obstruction on the deck will not inhibit any other activities.
As mentioned above, portable pool lifts are battery-powered but removable and permanent lifts have two options. Depending on the brand, they will be either water- or battery-powered. Water-powered lifts are connected to a water supply and use the water pressure to raise and lower the lift. Typically the water is supplied through a garden hose across the deck or conduit installed under the deck. If considering a water-powered model, you will want to check your local code for any restrictions regarding water supply to the lift. The main advantages of using water pressure are not having to worry about a battery dying and not having an electrical unit near the pool.
Battery-powered pool lifts use a rechargeable battery rated to last about 4 - 5 years if properly cared for. The main advantage of using a battery is not having to run a water line either across or under the deck.