Washington, D.C., May 18, 2012 – Following months of hard work by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) and the lodging industry, the Department of Justice (DOJ) last night announced a substantial postponement of the ADA compliance date for existing pools and spas with ADA requirements for accessible entries. The new compliance date – January 31, 2013 – is more than an additional nine months beyond the original date of March 15, 2012.
“The extension is fair and sensible and the lodging industry supports it,” said AH&LA President/CEO Joe McInerney.
AH&LA began its efforts immediately after DOJ first announced in a guidance dated January 31, 2012 that pool lifts used to provide accessible entries into existing pools and spas must be “fixed” unless not “readily achievable,” next to the pool/spa at all times when the facilities are open, and cannot be shared between two bodies of water even if they are in the same location. DOJ subsequently clarified that that “fixed” means attached to the pool deck in some way. This means that “portable” lifts brought out upon request would not be acceptable, raising new concerns among members about safety risks and costs posed by “fixed” lifts. The hospitality and business community viewed this announcement to be a significant change from the pool lift requirements issued by DOJ in its September 15, 2010 final regulations and began its intensive campaign to both reverse these substantive changes and delay the compliance date.
AH&LA’s efforts resulted in DOJ initially extending the March 15, 2012 deadline to May 21, 2012, while it considered comments to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to further extend the deadline to September 17, 2012. AH&LA submitted extensive comments explaining that a longer extension to allow lodging facilities to develop their compliance plans was needed in light of the new “fixed” lift requirement and to obtain the required equipment. Other groups, including the one representing the pool and spa industry, supported AH&LA’s position. AH&LA also launched an intensive campaign that resulted in a Congressional hearing on this issue as well as an amendment to a House Appropriations bill, H.R. 5326, which would prohibit DOJ from enforcing the fixed lift requirement for one year. DOJ’s decision to extend the compliance deadline to January 31, 2013 is a very significant victory, particularly because the outdoor pool season will not begin in some parts of the country until several months later.
“Our hoteliers deserve credit for meeting with their members of Congress to discuss the lodging industry’s common sense solutions to this issue,” said AH&LA Executive Vice President of Public Policy Marlene Colucci. “Their efforts resulted in overwhelming Congressional support, which forced DOJ to re-examine the unreasonable compliance deadline. We are pleased that DOJ responded to the calls from both our industry and Congress.”
The announcement by DOJ does not change the substance of DOJ’s “fixed” lift requirement. In retaining this requirement, DOJ did not address concerns raised by AH&LA and the lodging industry such as the increased liability associated with making lifts permanently available when life guards are not present, sharing of lifts between multiple pools and spas, or the extensive construction and electrical bonding work needed to install fixed lifts.
The DOJ found that the delay will allow the Department to “continue to educate covered entities about their obligations under the 2010 Standards…and to address misunderstandings that could lead covered entities to take unnecessary and counterproductive steps….” The DOJ had received over 1,400 comments urging additional time to comply with this requirement outweighing the nearly 500 comments opposing any extension.
The DOJ specifically noted three areas of concern resulting from misunderstandings. First, some operators took steps to comply with the entry requirements based on false understandings. Second, many operators were having difficulty in finding an adequate supply of pool lifts. Third, some operators were considering closing pools when it may not be warranted. For these reasons, the DOJ concluded a delay in the compliance was necessary. DOJ noted that this delay does not affect pool and spas that are under construction or are being altered. The fixed lift requirement applies now to pools and spas being constructed or altered.
AH&LA continues to support efforts to provide entry to pools and spas for all travelers and will seek measures that will ensure the safety of all guests. For AH&LA’s Myth v. Fact on this issue, click here.
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Serving the hospitality industry for over a century, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) is the sole national association representing all sectors and stakeholders in the lodging industry, including individual hotel property members, hotel companies, student and faculty members, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA provides members with national advocacy on Capitol Hill, public relations and image management, education, research and information, and other value-added services to provide bottom-line savings and ensure a positive business climate for the lodging industry. Partner state associations provide local representation and additional cost-saving benefits to members.