The products shown in this guide are only
intended to serve as examples to illustrate the accessibility guidelines, and
are not intended as endorsements of the products. Other products may be
available. The Access Board does not evaluate or certify products for compliance
with the accessibility guidelines. Users are advised to obtain and review
product specifications for compliance with the accessibility guidelines.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is
a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits
discrimination on the basis of disability. The
ADA requires that newly constructed and altered
state and local government facilities, places of
public accommodation, and commercial facilities
be readily accessible to, and usable by,
individuals with disabilities. The ADA
Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) is the standard
applied to buildings and facilities.
Recreational facilities, including swimming
pools, wading pools, and spas, are among the
facilities required to comply with the ADA.
The Access Board issued accessibility guidelines for
newly constructed and altered recreation
facilities in 2002. The recreation facility
guidelines are a supplement to
ADAAG. As a
supplement, they must be used in conjunction
with ADAAG. References to ADAAG are mentioned
throughout this summary. Once
these guidelines are adopted by the Department
of Justice (DOJ), all newly designed,
constructed and altered recreation facilities
covered by the ADA will be required to comply.
The recreation facility guidelines cover the following facilities and elements:
- Amusement rides
- Boating facilities
- Fishing piers and platforms
- Miniature golf courses
- Golf courses
- Exercise equipment
- Bowling lanes
- Shooting facilities
- Swimming pools, wading pools, and spas
This guide is intended to help designers and
operators in using the accessibility guidelines
for swimming pools, wading pools, and spas.
These guidelines establish minimum accessibility
requirements for newly designed or newly
constructed and altered swimming pools, wading
pools, and spas. This guide is not a collection
of swimming pool or spa designs. Rather, it
provides specifications for elements within a
swimming pool or spa to create a general level
of usability for individuals with disabilities.
Emphasis is placed on ensuring that individuals
with disabilities are generally able to access
swimming pools and spas and use a variety of
elements. Designers and operators are encouraged
to exceed the guidelines where possible to
provide increased accessibility and
opportunities. Incorporating accessibility into
the design of a swimming pool or spa should
begin early in the planning process with careful
consideration to the accessible routes and means
of entry into the water.
The recreation facility guidelines were developed
with significant public participation. In 1993,
the Access Board established an advisory
committee of 27 members to recommend
accessibility guidelines for recreation
facilities. The Recreation Access Advisory
Committee represented the following groups and
- American Ski Federation
- American Society for Testing and Materials (Public Playground Safety Committee)
- American Society of Landscape Architects
- Beneficial Designs
- City and County of San Francisco, California, Department of Public Works
- Disabled American Veterans
- Environmental Access
- Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
- Hawaii Disability and Communication Access Board
- International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
- Katherine McGuinness and Associates
- Lehman, Smith, and Wiseman Associates
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources
- National Council on Independent Living
- National Park Service
- National Recreation and Park Association
- New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
- Outdoor Amusement Business Association
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Professional Golfer’s Association
- Self Help for Hard of Hearing People
- States Organization for Boating Access
- Universal Studios
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Forest Service
- Y.M.C.A. of the U.S.A.
- Walt Disney Imagineering
The public was given an opportunity to comment on
the recommended accessibility guidelines, and
the Access Board made changes to the recommended
guidelines based on the public comments. A
notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was
published in the Federal Register in July 1999,
followed by a five-month public comment period.
Further input from the public was sought in July
2000 when the Access Board published a draft
final rule soliciting comment. A final rule was
published in September 2002.
Accessible Swimming Pools and Spas
"Whenever any barrier stands
between you and the full rights and dignity of
citizenship, we must work to remove it, in the
name of simple decency and justice.The promise
of the ADA...has enabled people with
disabilities to enjoy much greater access to a
wide range of affordable travel, recreational
opportunities and life-enriching services."
President George W. Bush, New Freedom Initiative, February 1, 2001
The guidelines described
in this guide focus on newly designed or newly
constructed and altered swimming pools, wading
pools, aquatic recreation facilities, and spas.
Other provisions contained in ADAAG address
elements commonly found at a swimming facility,
such as accessible vehicle parking spaces,
exterior accessible routes, and toilet and
bathing facilities. ADAAG addresses only the
built environment (structures and grounds); the
guidelines do not address operational issues.
Questions regarding operational issues should be
directed to the Department of Justice,
1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY).
Accessible routes are continuous, unobstructed paths connecting all
accessible elements and spaces of a building or
facility. Accessible route requirements in ADAAG
address width (minimum of 36 inches), passing
space, head room, surface, slope (maximum of
1:12 or 8.33%), changes in level, doors, egress,
and areas of rescue assistance, unless modified
by specific provisions outlined in this guide.
An accessible route is required to provide
access to the swimming areas and all the
supporting amenities. An accessible route is not
required to serve raised diving boards,
platforms, or water slides.
Click on diagram to view enlargement.
Types of Facilities and Required Means of Entry into the Water
Large pools must have a minimum of two accessible means of entry.
A large pool is defined as any pool with over
300 linear feet of pool wall. Pool walls at
diving areas and in areas where swimmers cannot
enter because of landscaping or adjacent
structures are still counted as part of the
pool’s total linear feet.
The primary means of entry
must be either a sloped entry into the water or
a pool lift that is capable of being
independently operated by a person with a
disability. The secondary means of entry could
be a pool lift, sloped entry, transfer wall,
transfer system, or pool stairs. It is
recommended that where two means of entry are
provided, they be different types and be
situated on different pool walls.
Pools with less than 300
linear feet of pool wall are only required to
provide one accessible means of entry, which
must be either a pool lift or sloped entry.
Aquatic Recreation Facilities
Wave action pools, leisure rivers, sand bottom pools, and other
pools where access to the water is limited to
one area and where everyone gets in and out at
the same place, must provide at least one
accessible means of entry, no matter how many
linear feet of pool wall is provided. The
accessible means of entry can be either a pool
lift, sloped entry, or transfer system.
A catch pool is a body of water where water slide flumes drop
users into the water. An accessible means of
entry or exit is not required into the catch
pool. However, an accessible route must connect
to the edge of the catch pool.
A wading pool is a pool designed for shallow depth and is used for
wading. Each wading pool must provide at least
one sloped entry into the deepest part. Other
forms of entry may be provided as long as a
sloped entry is provided. The sloped entries for
wading pools are not required to have handrails.
Spas must provide at least one accessible means of entry, which
can be a pool lift, transfer wall, or transfer
system. If spas are provided in a cluster, 5
percent of the total—or at least one spa—must be
accessible. If there is more than one cluster,
one spa or 5 percent per cluster must be
Footrests are not required
on pool lifts provided at spas. However,
footrests or retractable leg supports are
encouraged, especially on lifts used in larger
spas, where the water depth is 34 inches or more
and there is sufficient space.
Types of Accessible Means of Entry into the Water
Pool lifts must be located
where the water level is not deeper than 48
inches. This provides the opportunity for
someone to provide assistance from a standing
position in the water if desired. If multiple
pool lift locations are provided, only one must
be where the water is less than 48 inches. If
the entire pool is deeper than 48 inches, an
exception allows operators to use a pool lift in
any location as an accessible means of entry.
There are a variety of seats available on pool lifts and
these guidelines do not specify the type of
material or the type of seat required. However,
lift seats must be a minimum of 16 inches wide.
In the raised (load) position, the centerline of
the seat must be located over the deck, a
minimum of 16 inches from the edge of the pool.
The deck surface between the centerline of the
seat and the pool edge cannot have a slope
greater than 1:48.
Although not required,
seats with backs will enable a larger number of
persons with disabilities to use the lift
independently. Pool lift seats made of materials
that resist corrosion, that provide a firm base,
and that are padded are more usable. Headrests,
seat belts, and additional leg support may also
enhance accessibility and accommodate a wider
variety of people with disabilities.
Clear Deck Space
Clear deck space must be provided to enable a person to get close
enough to the pool lift seat to easily transfer
from a wheelchair or mobility device. This clear
deck space will ensure an unobstructed area for
transfers between a mobility device and the
seat. The clear deck space must be a minimum of
36 inches wide and extend forward a minimum of
48 inches from a line located 12 inches behind
the rear edge of the seat. This space must be
located on the side of the seat opposite the
water. The slope of the clear deck space must
not be greater than 1:48 (2%). This virtually
flat area will make the transfer easier and
safer, while still allowing water to drain away
from the deck.
The lift must be designed so that the seat will make a stop
between a minimum of 16 inches and maximum of 19
inches (measured from the deck to the top of the
seat surface, when the seat is in the raised
position). Lifts can provide additional stops at
various heights to accommodate users of all ages
Footrests and Armrests
Footrests and armrests provide stability for the person using the pool
lift. Footrests must be provided on pool lifts,
and must move together with the seat. Padding on
footrests —large enough to support the whole
foot—reduces the chance of injury.
Armrests are not required,
however if provided, the armrest opposite the
water must be removable or be able to fold clear
of the seat when the seat is in the raised
(load) position. This clearance is needed for
people transferring between the lift and a
Lifts must be designed and placed so that people can use them without
assistance, although assistance can be provided
if needed. A person must be able to call the
lift when it is in either the deck or water
position. It is especially important for someone
who is swimming alone to be able to call the
lift so she or he won’t be stranded in the water
for an extended period of time.
The controls and operating
mechanisms must be unobstructed when a lift is
in use. A person must be able to use the lift
with one hand, and the operating controls must
not require tight grasping, pinching, or
twisting of the wrist. Controls may not require
more than five pounds of pressure to operate.
Lifts must be designed so that the seat will submerge to a minimum of
18 inches below the stationary water level. This
will ensure buoyancy for the person on the lift
and make it easier to enter or exit.
Lifts must have the capability of supporting a minimum weight of 300
pounds and be capable of sustaining a static
load that is at least 1.5 times the rated load.
Where possible, lifts that can support a greater
weight capacity are encouraged.
Sloped entries must comply with ADAAG accessible route provisions (36 inch
minimum width, maximum 1:12 or 8.33% slope), except that the surface does not need to be slip
resistant. The slope may be designed as zero grade beach or ramp access. With either design,
the maximum slope permitted is 1:12 (8.33%).
In most cases, it is not appropriate to submerge personal wheelchairs and
mobility devices in water. Some have batteries, motors, and electrical systems that can be
damaged or contaminate the pool. Facilities that use sloped entries are encouraged to provide an
aquatic wheelchair designed for access into the water. Persons transfer
to the aquatic wheelchair and access the water using it, leaving their personal mobility device
on the deck. Operators and facility managers may need to consider storage options for personal
mobility devices if deck space is limited.
Sloped entries must extend to a depth between 24 inches minimum and 30 inches maximum below the stationary water level. This depth is necessary for individuals
using the sloped entry to become buoyant. Where the sloped entry has a running slope greater
than 1:20 (5%), a landing at both the top and bottom of the ramp is required. At least one
landing must be located between 24 and 30 inches below the stationary water level. Landings must
be a minimum of 36 inches in width and 60 inches in length. The sloped entry may be a maximum of
30 feet at 1:12 (8.33%) slope before an intermediate landing is required. Adding a solid
wall on the side closest to the water can enhance safety.
Sloped entries must have handrails on both sides regardless of
the slope. Handrail extensions are required at the top landing but not at the bottom. The clear
width between handrails must be between 33 and 38 inches. The handrail height must be between
34 and 38 inches to the top of the gripping surface. This provision does not require the
handrails to be below the stationary water level, which could be considered an underwater
obstruction. No minimum width is required between handrails provided on sloped entries
that serve wave action pools, leisure rivers, sand bottom pools, and other pools where people
can enter only in one place. Handrails are required to comply with ADAAG provisions
(diameter, non-rotating, and height).
A transfer wall is a wall along an accessible route that allows a person to leave a mobility device and transfer onto the
wall and then into a pool or spa.
Transfer walls must have at least one grab bar. Grab bars must be
perpendicular to the pool wall and extend the
full width of the wall so a person can use them
for support into the water. The top of the
gripping surface must be 4 to 6 inches above the
wall to provide leverage to the person using the
bars. If only one bar is provided, the clearance
must be a minimum of 24 inches on each side of
the bar. If two bars are provided, the clearance
must be a minimum of 24 inches between the bars.
The diameter of the grab bars must comply with
ADAAG (diameter between 1.25 and 1.5 inches, not
abrasive, and non-rotating).
Clear Deck Space
Clear deck space of 60 by 60 inches minimum, with a slope of not more
than 1:48, must be provided at the base of a
transfer wall. This will allow persons using a
wheelchair to turn around and access the wall,
depending on the side they can best use to
transfer. If there is one grab bar on a transfer
wall, the clear deck space must be centered on
the one grab bar. That allows enough space for a
transfer on either side of the bar. If two bars
are provided, the clear deck space must be
centered on the 24-inch clearance between the
The transfer wall height must be 16 inches minimum to 19 inches
maximum, measured from the deck.
Width and Length
Transfer walls must be a minimum of 12 inches wide to a maximum of 16
inches wide. This provides enough space for a
person to sit comfortably on the surface of the
wall and pivot to access the water. The wall
must be a minimum of 60 inches long and must be
centered on the clear deck space. Additional
length will provide increased space and options
Since people using transfer walls are in bathing suits, their skin
may be in contact with the wall. To prevent
injuries, the wall surface must have rounded
edges and not be sharp.
A transfer system consists of a
transfer platform and a series of transfer steps
that descend into the water. Users need to
transfer from their wheelchair or mobility
device to the transfer platform and continue
transferring into the water, step by step,
bumping their way in or out of the pool.
Each transfer system must have a platform on the deck surface
so users can maneuver on and off the system from
their mobility device or wheelchair. Platforms
must be a minimum of 19 inches deep by 24 inches
wide. That provides enough room for a person
transferring to maintain balance and provides
enough space to maneuver on top of it.
Transfer platforms must be between 16 and 19 inches high, measured from the deck.
Clear Deck Space
The base of the transfer platform must have a clear deck space
adjacent to it that is 60 by 60 inches minimum,
with a slope not steeper than 1:48 so a person
using a wheelchair can turn around and maneuver
into transfer position. The space must be
centered along the 24-inch minimum unobstructed
side of the transfer platform. A level,
unobstructed space will help a person
transferring from a mobility device.
The maximum height of transfer steps is 8 inches, although shorter
heights are recommended. Each transfer step must
have a tread depth of 14 inches minimum to 17
inches maximum and a minimum tread width of 24
inches. The steps must extend into the water a
minimum of 18 inches below the stationary water
The surface of the transfer platform and steps must not be sharp
and must have rounded edges to prevent injuries.
A grab bar must be provided on at least one side of each step and
on the transfer platform (shown on page 16), or
as a continuous grab bar serving each step and
the platform (shown at left). The bar must not
obstruct transfer onto the platform. If a grab
bar is provided on each step, the top of the
gripping surface must be 4 inches minimum to 6
inches maximum above each step. If a continuous
bar is provided, the top of the gripping surface
must be 4 inches minimum to 6 inches maximum
above each step nosing. Grab bars on transfer
systems must comply with ADAAG (diameter between
1.25 and 1.5 inches, not abrasive, and
Accessible Pool Stairs
Accessible pool stairs are
designed to provide assistance with balance and
support from a standing position when moving
from the pool deck into the water and out. ADAAG
provisions for stairs include the requirement
that all steps have uniform riser heights and
uniform tread widths of not less than 11 inches,
measured from riser to riser. Additionally, open
risers are not permitted. Other stairs or steps
provided in the pool are not required to meet
Pool stairs must have handrails with a minimum width between the
rails of 20 inches and a maximum of 24 inches.
The 20- to 24-inch width for the accessible pool
stairs is intended to provide support for
individuals with disabilities who are
ambulatory. Handrail extensions are required on
the top landing of the stairs but are not
required at the bottom landing. Handrails on
pool stairs must comply with ADAAG provisions.
The top of the handrail gripping surface must be
a minimum of 34 inches and a maximum of 38
inches above the stair nosing. If handrails are
mounted on walls, the clear space between the
handrail and wall must be 1.5 inches.
Water Play Components
If water play components are provided, they must comply with the Access Board’s Play Area
Guidelines and accessible route provisions.
If the surface of the accessible route, clear floor or ground spaces,
and turning spaces that connect play components
are submerged, the accessible route does not
have to comply with the requirements for cross
slope, running slope, and surface conditions.
Transfer systems may be used instead of ramps to
connect elevated water play components.
Other Accessible Elements
If swimming pools are part of a multi-use facility, designers and operators
must also comply with ADAAG and all applicable
requirements for recreation facilities. These
include, but are not limited to:
- Dressing, fitting, and locker rooms
- Exercise equipment and machines
- Areas of sports activities (court sports, sports fields, etc.)
- Play areas
- Saunas and steam rooms
Technical assistance on the guidelines for swimming pools, wading pools, and spas is available from the Access
Board at (800)-872-2253 (voice), (800)-993-2822 (TTY) or email@example.com (e-mail).
This information has been developed and reviewed in accordance with the Access Board’s information