Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

General Overview:

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The law was divided into five subparts but for the swimming pool and spa industry the relevant sections are Public Entities and Public transportation (Title II) and Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities (Title III).

The original enforcement guidelines did not provide accessibility standards for swimming pools and spas. However, in 2004, the Department of Justice issued enforcement guidelines that included pools and spas. At that point they were just that—guidelines—and not law.

In July 2010, the Department of Justice announced its final rule making. The revised regulations were then published in the Federal Register on September 16, 2010 and are now in effect.

Background Information:

What follows are a few key summary points for aquatic facilities and waterparks:


There are some exceptions from the accessibility guidelines.

Title II facilities can be excluded if they can prove that modifications would significantly alter the historic nature of the building. They could also be excused if they could demonstrate that making such modifications would create undue financial hardship for the facility.

Title III facilities can be excluded if they can demonstrate that reasonable accommodations are not readily achievable. However, the Department of Justice has made it clear that, given the flexibility and cost of a pool lift, it would be very difficult for any entity to escape their responsibility to provide access to a swimming pool.


ADA regulations are enforced directly and indirectly. Most direct enforcement is a result of civil lawsuits initiated by a plaintiff who sues for non-compliance. If the plaintiff prevails, the court usually issues a court order that requires the defendant to remedy the violation, and attorney’s fees for the plaintiff. There are generally no monetary awards provided to the victorious plaintiff.

Many states either have adopted or will adopt the latest guidelines into their state or local building codes.

Latest News:

The DOJ recently released a revised compliance brief with information on re-striping park spaces. This compliance brief provides information about the features of accessible car and van park spaces and how many accessible spaces are required when parking facilities are re-striped. Download this document here.

Useful Links:

Download the Revised ADA Requirements: Accessible Pools Means of Entry and Exit document.

Download the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

Download the DOJ’s Guidance on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

Download the DOJ’s Accessible Pools Means of Entry and Exist Overview document

Download an ADA Q&A document with frequently asked questions relating to the ADA and its application in aquatic and waterpark environments

Download an ADA compliance checklist document for existing aquatic facilities

Download an FAQ sheet from the U.S. Department of Justice on Service Animals and the ADA