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Monday, October 25, 2021

Public pools will soon be required to be handicap-accessible

<p>The beach entry wheelchair ramp at Dwight H. Hunter Municipal Pool, also know as the Northeast Pool, is one of two soon-to-be required methods of entry for people with disabilities as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.</p>

The beach entry wheelchair ramp at Dwight H. Hunter Municipal Pool, also know as the Northeast Pool, is one of two soon-to-be required methods of entry for people with disabilities as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

When Max Lee hits the water, he glides across with ease.

But when it’s time to leave, he has to swim over to an automatic lift to get out of the pool.

Lee, 42, who is paralyzed from his chest down, frequents Gainesville’s pools.

All public and hotel pools will soon be required to have special lifts and ramps to accommodate Lee and others with disabilities.

In 2010, the Americans with Disabilities Act issued a set of standards that includes a rule that all public and commercial pools have to incorporate two entries for people with disabilities.

The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design originally set a March 15 deadline for pool management to install lifts and ramps.

In March, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder extended the deadline to May 21.

The Department of Justice is now considering another extension that could push the date for compliance to September, according to the ADA website.

Swimtownpools.com, a retailer that advertises its pool lifts as compliant with the ADA, has permanent pool lifts that range in price from about $2,900 to about $6,600.

The city of Gainesville installed a lift at Dwight H. Hunter Municipal Pool as its second handicapped-accessible entry about a year ago, well before the initial deadline, said Megan Risler, 21, the pool’s manager.

The beach entry and the pool lift provide a way for people with disabilities to enjoy the pool and do exercises they can’t do on land, she said.

Pool exercise increases their quality of life and sense of independence, said Amy Leaverton, 26, a physical therapy student at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences and an intern at the center.

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Lee agreed and said a pool without a lift or ramp makes it harder for him to get the exercise he needs. He said it limits what he is able to do.

“If it’s not accessible, it just makes the world a lot smaller,” he said.

The beach entry wheelchair ramp at Dwight H. Hunter Municipal Pool, also know as the Northeast Pool, is one of two soon-to-be required methods of entry for people with disabilities as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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