HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) - Next month, businesses across the nation that have pools for their customers will have to follow new federal regulations set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The changes include installing pool lifts or a sloped entry, but some say the changes are expensive and aren't a one-size-fits-all solution.
"I just don't see how they can make enough chairs for every pool in America," said Harold Worley who owns Ocean Drive Beach and Golf Resort in North Myrtle Beach. His experience in the hotel industry spans three decades. Worley says the new pool regulations are not only absurd, he doesn't see the need. "If I had requests, I'd have a lift. The government wouldn't have to tell me, Harold you need a lift. I just think this is more of the same. Government getting in the way of business, dictating what businessmen do, and that's what's wrong with this country."
Under the new guidelines, a pool under 300 linear feet must provide one means of access that's a sloped entry or a pool lift. For larger pools, there must be two means of access which can be a pool lift, sloped entry, pool stairs, transfer wall or transfer system. Wading pools must have a sloped entry. Spas and lazy rivers also fall under the regulations.
The new rules apply to new and existing pools. Businesses affected by the new rules should have received a letter from the federal government outlining the changes.
Brad Dean with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce says the interpretation of the law goes beyond Congressional intent.
"To have some properties add 8, 9, 10 lifts, especially when one size doesn't fit all. What a child with disabilities needs may be different than what their caregiver needs. What's needed now is common sense legislation that will address this and make sure everyone has access to swimming pools, but in a means that's not too costly and doesn't present businesses from overreacting," he explains. "We think a big part of this law should be not just the installation of lifts, but governing how they're used and who's qualified to use them. Unfortunately some people in the federal government think that we should just let the people with disabilities insert themselves in the pool, and that's the least common sense measure of this law."
Both Dean and Worley say they support the ADA's efforts, but hope changes to the law will be made before the March 15 deadline arrives.
"Private residences, private clubs, condominiums were not intended by Congress to be impacted, although some are interpreting it that way. Everyone generally agrees we need to provide adequate access to everyone with disabilities, but how we do that is not governed by common sense currently," says Dean. He's planning a trip to Washington to speak with lawmakers about the regulations.
"If they say you have to do it, obviously we're a law abiding people, we'll do it, even though we think it's absolutely ridiculous," adds Worley.