Representatives of the US hotel industry expressed disappointment with the federal government’s strict interpretation of public-access swimming pool rules under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

After waiting months for clarification about pool lifts, the lodging and spa industries learned on January 31 that the US Department of Justice is sticking with the Americans With Disabilities Act revisions that go into effect March 15. The rules state that all public pools and most spas need to have at least one means of entry for disabled guests. In many instances, swimming pool lifts must be permanently fixed – the most costly decision for hotel owners.

The American Hotel & Lodging Industry officials met with the DOJ, and 'they reiterated their harsh and unyielding interpretation,' said an AH&LA statement.

‘DOJ officials refused to consider AH&LA's concerns that the ADA rules are vague and overbroad, leading to great confusion. Nor did DOJ consider our industry's concern regarding the possibility that a permanent lift not in operation might pose a safety concern for children and other guests, or the inability to obtain and properly install lifts by the March 15 deadline. 'The association urged hotel and spa owners and operators to contact their Congressional representatives to express their opposition ‘to this hard-line approach taken by DOJ.' AH&LA also noted it 'is working with our ADA Counsel to assess a legal response.'

The InterContinental Hotels Group Owners Association also posted the DOJ’s decision on its Web site and encouraged owners to let their voices be heard.

The AH&LA said key questions answered by DOJ include:

All lifts must be fixed or attached to a deck at all times the pool is open to guests. A portable lift is not acceptable unless it can also be fixed to the deck with clamps, screws, or bolts.

Properties that have already purchased portable lifts will need to find a way to secure the lift to the deck or purchase a new lift that can be fixed.

DOJ expects lifts at all pools and most spas to be in place by March 15, or when the pool/spa is opened.

Lifts cannot be shared between pools.

A lift must be installed if it is readily achievable.

External factors such as insurance rates, child safety, hiring additional staff to monitor safe usage and/or maintain the operation of the lift cannot be factors in determining excessive cost.

IHG Owners Association noted: 'Though additional ADA standards were issued in 2010, the US Department of Justice did not release a requested clarification on the pool lift standards until January 31. The Owners Association concurs with public statements made by AH&LA expressing disappointment with this interpretation, which comes just two months before the compliance date and at tremendous cost to hotels. We will closely monitor this issue as AH&LA determines next steps.'

The owners association added that while waiting to hear the outcome of the protest, hotel owners 'need to take action immediately to protect your hotels. The clarification makes clear that pool lifts need to be available at each pool at all times when the pool is open, and only fixed lifts will be acceptable, unless a hotel can demonstrate that installing such a lift is not readily achievable.'