HOTEL CHAINS are lobbying the American government to delay implementing a rule requiring them to install permanent lifts or ramps for the disabled at all public pools by May 21st. In September 2010, the Department of Justice issued a final rule reinterpreting a provision of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to mean that such facilities were required; previously, many pools had portable, temporary lifts. The permanent versions cost between $2,500 and $6,500, plus $1,000 to $3,000 in installation costs, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Permanent lifts aren’t that different from the portable ones. They also involve a seat that slowly lowers disabled people into the water. The advantage of a permanent lift is that it doesn’t require users to get a hotel worker to help every time they want to enter the pool. But Scott Souza, a man who was paralysed in a motorcycle accident a decade ago, told the Times he doesn’t mind the current setup:
“I understand where the law is coming from,” he said. “But it seems like it’s going too far, particularly for small mom-and-pop hotels that can’t afford the cost.”
And he said he doesn’t mind having to ask a hotel worker to bring out a portable lift every time he wants to swim. “I’m a mid-level quadriplegic,” Souza said. “I have to deal with that stuff every single day.”
To avoid potential lawsuits, some hotels are threatening to close their pools until they can comply with the new ADA rule. The big hotel chains, which would face the largest costs from the regulation, are lobbying Congress to pass a bill delaying the implementation of the new regulation for a year. That doesn’t seem very likely, given Congress’s inability to pass much of anything during presidential election campaigns. But they can always hope.
The implementation of the pool rule has already been delayed once, from March 15th to May 21st, and the process of changing the ADA rules began back in September 2004. It’s perfectly legitimate to argue about the wisdom of the rule, but it’s hard to see how hotels haven’t had enough time to see this coming. That said, the Justice Department’s first extension of the compliance date left open the possibility of further extensions; it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see the executive branch delay the rule once again. But if someone tries to tell you that this new regulation is something that Barack Obama came up with out of nowhere, don’t buy it: this has been in the works for nearly a decade. That’s just the speed at which American government rulemaking works.