While some area pools are already in compliance with federal requirements that all public pools be accessible to swimmers with disabilities, others still are working to meet the new law.
Changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2010 require that pools be upgraded with either ramps or chair lifts that move wheelchair users into the water.
The initial deadline was March 16, but confusion over the details and many pool owners’ insistence for more time caused the U.S. Department of Justice to give them until May 21.
At the Washington city pool, aquatic lifts need to be added to both the leisure and lap pools before the season starts.
Parks Director Darren Dunkle said he estimates both chair lifts to cost approximately $20,000 total.
The city is seeking bids, which are due Tuesday, Dunkle said. From the vendors he has spoken with, there seems to be no problems with orders backed up.
According to Union Parks Director Kevin Arand, the Union Splash-N-Swimplex is already in compliance with the changes since “for about 50 percent of our pool, you can walk or wheelchair right down into it.”
The Four Rivers Area Family YMCA in Washington does not need to make any changes either.
Anne Schneider, YMCA program director, said there has been a chair lift at the pool since the facility opened.
At the St. Clair city pool, City Administrator Rick Childers said staff are researching options for compliance.
“We are aware of it and it’s something we’ve been looking at,” Childers told The Missourian Friday.
Childers said the city is looking at the possibility of purchasing a lift that could be moved to a different pool, if the city closes the existing pool.
Last year, St. Clair park board members recommended to the board of aldermen that the pool not be opened this year because of its operation and maintenance problems.
The aldermen, however, voted to keep the pool functioning for at least another year.
Childers said if a new pool is an option, a lift may not be required if the new pool has a ramp.
He added that at the 3-foot-deep end of the pool, it might be too deep to place a person sitting in a wheelchair in and that there is not much room to move around in the pool before reaching the 4-foot-depth level.
Childers said once the pool is filled, staff can get a better idea of how a chair lift would work.
The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals says its research shows that between 235,000 and 310,000 pools require an upgrade. Manufacturers estimate the lifts cost $3,500 to $6,500, and installation can double those costs.
Pools operated by local governments don’t face monetary penalties but are subject to federal oversight.
The government can give pools more time if they show financial hardship and have a plan to save up for the equipment.
The law doesn’t affect private clubs or pools owned by neighborhood associations that aren’t open to the public.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.