Swimming Pool Lifts: Fixed, Portable or Whatever is Readily Achievable?

portable pool lifts ada compliantLate last year, the American Hotel & Lodging Association asked the Dept. of Justice for clarification on the pool lift requirements which are mandated by March 15, 2012.

The Department of Justice has responded.

“Pool lifts must be “fixed” unless the operator can prove that doing so would not be “readily achievable” as defined in the ADA, in which event, a portable lift meeting all of the ADA Guidelines could be deployed.”

There are two types of pool lifts available, Fixed and Portable. Fixed pool lifts are usually a single post, that sits in a sleeve that has been installed into a concrete pool deck, just behind the coping stone, similar to how a ladder rail installs into a deck anchor. Portable lifts are on wheels, as shown in the picture above.

Many pool operators are showing an early preference for the portable units, even though they are more expensive. Advantages include being able to move the device out of the way during swim meets or events. The initial, unofficial response from DOJ was that this was exactly the point, pool lifts should not be pushed out of the way, getting dusty and being inconvenient to use. They should be ready to go.

The AH&LA argued that having a pool lift permanently “ready-to-go” at poolside created an “attractive nuisance” that may injure children or users who operate without assistance – and that the units would suffer more breakage and require more maintenance if left out all year ’round.

Another issue on the table – or perhaps the big elephant in the room, is that for portable lifts, being portable allowed it to be moved in between a pool and a spa. To this – the DOJ has also responded.

“Accessible lifts cannot be shared between a pool and a spa,
each would seem to require a separate device.”

In addition to this, the DOJ is aware of some hotel/motel pool operators that plan to rotate portable units from pool to pool, just ahead of the inspector. So, no sharing of pool lifts between pools, period.

Essentially, the DOJ prefers to have fixed lifts. If the pool operator can show that a hardship or difficulty exists in using a fixed pool lift, then a portable can be used instead.

The hardship cannot be financial, since fixed lifts cost less than portable lifts. About the only difficulty I can think of is limited deck space, which poses a safety hazard to bathers trying to move around a fixed pool lift, during crowded pool events.

Enforcement of what is “readily achievable” will be up to the local pool inspector, and will be largely ineffective in some parts of the country. This has made a lot of pool operators nervous about their pool lift purchase. They want a portable, but what if their inspector fails to authorize its use?

The DOJ stated that all pool lifts must be “fixed” to the deck. Further explanation detailed the use of clamps, screws or bolts to secure an anchored or portable lift to a deck as permissible. As an odd example to illustrate, the DOJ stated that if the pool area were turned upside down, the pool lift would remain attached to the pool deck.

Using rails attached to the sides of portable pool lifts, and anchored into deck anchor sleeves seems to meet the criteria. Manufacturers of pool lifts, such as Inter-Fab and SR Smith, already have retrofit anchoring systems available for portable units, and new units are going to have the anchoring system included.

You can find additional information at:

2010 ADA Standards (September 2010)
Revised ADA Requirements (February 2012)

If you have more questions or concerns about the looming ADA Pool Lift deadline, give our commercial pool lift team a call at 800-765-7946.

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor

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