Make Your Pool More Accessible To Handicapped And Disabled

Handicapped persons want to have some fun and go to the swimming pools just like any others too.

Swimming is a good exercise which can improve the physical fitness. Also, it relaxes the mind and lifts the worries inside the head.

Indeed, many people wish to bring their friends and loved ones in swimming pools on a regular basis. However, some facilities are inadequate and they can’t accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities.

Thus, this article aims to discuss the guidelines set by the authorities in making the swimming pools handicapped friendly. This will also tackle methods on how to make the pool accessible to PWDs. Lastly, this will give tips on how to maintain the facilities to last for more years to come.

Americans with Disabilities Act Accessible Guidelines

The Department of Justice issued updated regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2010. This revolutionary move adopted the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards).

It contains clearly defined prerequisites in various recreational facilities to accommodate persons with disabilities. The law includes swimming pools, spas, and wading pools. Furthermore, the rule applies to hotels, health clubs, motels, public country clubs, recreation centers, and other businesses with pools.

These establishments must have an accessible entrance and exit to handicapped persons using the specifications set by the department. Failure to comply with the standards can cause one to pay penalties which can be up to $55,000.00.

Finally, the Department favors voluntary compliance with the rules set by covered entities. They wish to collaborate with businesses and if there are questions, anyone can just send them a message. They have a technical assistance program which is designed to assist establishments to achieve the new rules for the benefit of citizens with disabilities.

Now, here are the guidelines on how to make pools more accessible to handicapped swimmers:

Make Two Means Of Entry For The Handicapped

In building swimming pools, there must be at least two accessible means of entry for handicapped swimmers. The primary means must be a pool lift. It must be capable of being operated independently by the handicapped person or it can be a sloped entry.

Meanwhile, the secondary means must be either through transfer wall, pool stairs, or transfer system.

For swimming pools with less than 300 linear feet of pool wall, it must have at least one accessible means of entry. Examples of which are sloped entry and pool lift.

Zero Entry

Another method to try is the zero entry or the beach entry. This method incorporated the beach-type atmosphere and pool entry to create a safer environment for people with special conditions.

The zero entry features an edge that gradually slopes down from the deck of the pool. Somehow, this design is similar to the actual beach.

There is no need for ladders in this method. Person of all ages can find it easy to enter and exit in the pool.

Aquatic Wheelchairs

Nowadays, there are special types of wheelchairs that one can use in the water. Unlike the typical wheelchairs that are powered by batteries, the aquatic wheelchairs will not be damaged even if it’s submerged in the water.

Pool owners can invest in this type of innovation to accommodate various clients. The frames of the aquatic wheelchairs must be made of stainless steel or PVC. There should be seat belts to add extra safety to the user.

Aqua Creek 24” Stainless Steel Folding Wheelchair

One example of the aquatic wheelchairs is the Aqua Creek 24″ SS Folding Wheelchair. This product is made by Aqua Creek Company which is located in Montana. They specialize in making bath, shower, and pool accessories.

This folding wheelchair is made of stainless steel and PVC. It has a weight capacity of 350 lbs to 600 lbs. The company offers a five-year warranty on the product so one can have the best deal out of his money. Furthermore, the wheelchair is collapsible and has flip arms for easy transportation and storage.

Wheelchair Lift

Wheelchair lifts are common in public transportation vehicles and stairwells. These are motorized tracks that people use to lower the wheelchair in the water and vice versa.

Nowadays, it has several designs which come with comfortable chair seats, headrests, seat backs, leg support, and canvas slings. With this, the person’s access to the people can be hassle-free.

According to the law, the lift must be located where the level of the water does not exceed 48 inches. If the entire pool depth is greater than 48 inches, then, the requirement does not apply.

Wheelchair Lift Seat

The center line of the seat must be situated over the deck and it must be 16 inches minimum from the pool edge. Meanwhile, the deck surface between the seat’s center line and the pool edge must have a slope of not more than 1:48.

On the side of the seat opposite the water, there must be a clear deck space which is parallel to the seat. The minimum space must be 36 inches wide. Then, it can extend forward up to 48 inches minimum from a line located 23 inches from the rear edge of the seat. With this, the person can be able to get close enough to the lift seat and transfer easily.

The lift must also be designed so that the seat can submerge to the water depth of 18 inches minimum below stationary water level. This will ensure the buoyancy and make it easier for swimmers to get in and out of the lift.

Lift Operation

The lifts must be able to have an unassisted operation from the deck and the water. However, it must be noted that assistance must still be available when needed.

Furthermore, there must no obstruction of the operating mechanisms and controls whenever the lift is in use. The controls must not require pinching, twisting, and tight grasping. Also, it shall not require more than five pounds of pressure before it can function.

Lift Weight Capacity

A lift designed for single person use must have a weight capacity of 300 lbs. It must be able to sustain the static load at least 1 1/2 times the rated load.

Overall, the pool lifts must be able to provide the needs of the clients the swimming pool serves. Making it carry a weight of more than 300 lbs sounds may be advisable.

Spectrum Aquatics Gallatin Water Powered Assisted Access Lift

The Spectrum Aquatics has been providing pool lifts, ladders, lifeguard chairs, and other pool accessories for many years. One of their best-sellers is the Gallatin Water Powered Assisted Access Lift.

This innovative product is fully automatic. It can function on in-ground spas with built-in benches and 12 inches of clearance from the deck to the bottom. Also, it works well in in-ground pools too.

This lift can be relocated to the poolside to assist swimmers. The base stand is adjustable and it can work on over 90% of the existing pool gutter configurations. With this, the need for measuring guide and expensive custom manufacturing process will be eliminated.

Furthermore, the company offers a five-year warranty on the product, thus, one can be assured of its quality performance.

Sloped Entry With Rail

According to the law, swimming pools can also choose to put a sloped ramp with handrails that lead directly to the pool. With this, those who use wheelchair, walker, or crutches can walk and hold on the rails as they go to the pool.

The sloped entries must follow the route provisions as provided by the law. It must have a minimum clear width of 36″ and a maximum slope of 1:12. Furthermore, the entry shall be slope resistant to protect the swimmers of all ages.

To ensure buoyancy, the sloped entries must extend to a depth of 24 to 30 inches below the stationary water level. Meanwhile, in the wading pools, the landings and slope entry must extend up to the deepest part of the pool.


Moreover, there must be handrails on both sides of the sloped entry. The clear width on between handrails shall be 33 to 38 inches.

Top landing need to have handrail extensions, but not at the bottom landing. Meanwhile, clear width between handrails is not needed in leisure rivers, wave action pools, and sand bottom pools.

Gripping surfaces with a circular cross-section is required to have an outside diameter of 1 1/4″ to 2″. It must be continuous along the rail’s length. Furthermore, it must not obstruct along the sides or tops. There must be no abrasive elements and rounded edges on the gripping surfaces.

FibroPro Swimming Pool Hand Rail With Quick Mount Base

Pool owners can install their pools with the FibroPro pool handrail. This product can mount to the deck using 4 easy bolts. It is made of stainless steel which is sturdy and long-lasting.

The product is 48” long and 36” tall. Amazingly, the handrail can mount on the concrete with 3/8” or 10 mm hammer drill bit. It can also be mounted on the wood using a ¼” bit.


The stairs allow easy entry of swimmers in the pool. Also, it provides support and balance whenever one enters or exits the pool.

According to Section 504 of the guidelines, the pool stairs must have uniform steps. The riser height and tread must be of the same width which is not less than 11″, measured from riser to riser. The slope must be less than 1:48.

Meanwhile, the curvature radius at the leading edge per tread must be 1/2″ maximum.

The law does not allow open risers. Also, landings and stairs shall be designed to prevent water accumulation.

Stairs’ Handrails

Handrails are installed to aid persons who are ambulatory. In between handrails, the width must be 20″ to 24″.

Moreover, there must be handrails on both sides of the sloped entry. The clear width on between handrails shall be 33 to 38 inches.

Top landing need to have handrail extensions, but not at the bottom landing. Meanwhile, clear width between handrails is not needed in rivers, wave action pools, and sand bottom pools.

Gripping surfaces with a circular cross-section is required to have an outside diameter of 1 1/4″ to 2″. It must be continuous along the rail’s length. Furthermore, it must not obstruct along the sides or tops. There must be no abrasive elements and rounded edges on the gripping surfaces.

Inter-Fab Stair Rail

One handrail that can be mounted on the stairs is the Inter-Fab stair rail with a brace. This product is made of stainless steel, 304 deck to deck four bend braced sloped pool rail with 49” span. The outer diameter tubing measures 1.90 inches while the wall thickness is .049 inch.

The product of Inter-Fan is one of the strongest handrails available in the market nowadays. It has a bright gleaming finish which will always look brand new even after years of use.

The handrails are proudly made in the United States had the company offers a three-year warranty on the product. Finally, this one is easy to install and instructions are provided on the package upon buying.

Transfer Walls

Transfer walls run along an accessible route on the pool. It enables a person to transfer from his mobility device to the wall and into the pool. The height of the transfer wall must be 16″ to 19″ measured from the deck.

Pool owners and designers must provide a clear deck space at the base of transfer wall. Space must be 60 to 65 inches and the slope must not be greater than 1:48.

Meanwhile, the width of the transfer wall must be 12″ to 16″ so a person can have enough space to sit and pivot access to the pool.

The surfaces of the wall must have rounded edges and it must not be sharp to avoid any injuries.

Whenever there is one grab bar, space must be centered on it. Grab bars must be positioned perpendicularly to the pool wall and extend full depth on the transfer wall.

The top of the gripping surface must be 4″ to 6″ above the transfer wall.


In a nutshell, the authorities of America are making great efforts to create laws that will promote equal rights to handicapped persons. They deserve the same treatment as other citizens, even in access to public pools.

Although the installation or renovation of the pools to accommodate the needs of the handicapped swimmers is a bit costly, this is still a good investment. Furthermore, think of it as a service to make families happy because there will be no more unhappy days for any handicapped during summer.

To know more about the guidelines, read the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.