HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new mandate from the Department of Justice requires new public swimming pools that are 300 feet or longer to have two ways for a person with a disability to enter and exit the water. Smaller pools must have one.
The options include a ramp, a transfer platform, steps with hand rails, or a hydraulic lift.
"For an existing pool, probably the only really realistic option is a lift," said Francine Wai, executive director with the State Disability Communication and Access Board.
The disability access requirement applies to pools under community associations, county governments and private hotels. It takes effect March 15.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association has been lobbying Congress to relax the rules for that industry. Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association president Mufi Hannemann said Hawaii's hotels want to comply with disability access, but most won't be ready in time.
"There's consultants to hire, there's engineers to hire, there's permits to have to obtain," Hannemann said. "All those things are going to make it very difficult to go through."
Published reports say there are about 300,000 public pools in the United States.
Hawaii hotels have had a hard time getting supplies to retrofit their swimming pools because of the demand for hydraulic lifts. Pool equipment companies have them on back order. A lift can cost as much as $10,000, and nearly that much to install.
Hannemann said small hotels with shallow pockets will be hit the hardest.
"The law is the law, but we're trying to ask for some relief, some understanding, and maybe some amendments as we go forward," he said.
Wai has tracked the new pool regulations since the DOJ announced them in 2010. She said there is some leeway, according to what's practical and affordable.
Honolulu's YMCA's have equipped their pools, as have most county parks.
"There are selected pools in each of the districts that have been adapted with a hydraulic lift," Wai said.
She said until public swimming pool disability compliance is complete, expect complaints and lawsuits.