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The Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG) rulemaking has concluded. The PROWAG final rule has been published in the Federal Register. Please visit the Access Board’s PROWAG page for the guidelines.

Swimming Pool Accessibility

Designs & Devices for Swimming Pool Access

National Center an Accessibility Designs & Devices for Swimming Pool Access

There have been many approaches taken to assist people in entering and exiting pools. Some are very common, others are not often seen. Some designs and devices are known by several different names. The information below is intended to familiarize you with the designs and devices and the terms by which we have chosen to refer to them. Please take a few minutes to review the various approaches and have this handy if your are interviewed.


Pool lifts are mechanical devices that move a person into or out of the water. Some lifts are permanently installed others are portable, placed in a deck mounting or rolled into place when needed. Lifts may require a transfer from a wheelchair to the lift seat or may have a sling seat that moves the person directly from a wheelchair to the water. Some lifts are power operated and others are operated manually; some can be operated independently by the user, while others require assistance.

Movable Pool Floors

Movable pool floors allow the entire pool floor or just a section of the floor to be raised or lowered to any depth or to a desired slope. Hydraulic pistons are used to slowly move the floor. When the floor is raised to deck level, participants can either walk or roll their wheelchairs on to the pool floor and be lowered to the desired water depth.

Raised Coping & Dry Ramp

Two similar pool designs have been used to create a transfer surface at the pool’s edge: the raised pool coping and the dry ramp. With the raised coping design, the edge of the pool is raised above the level of the deck, forming a small wall around the outside of the pool. The level of the pool water is actually above the deck of the pool. With the dry ramp, a descending ramp is built into the pool deck along the outside of the pool. This lowers the pool deck to a level transfer point at wheelchair height. Both the raised coping and the dry ramp are designed to form a transfer point above the pool deck and even with the water level.


Pool ramps typically begin at the pool’s deck level and provide an even sloped surface into the water. They may be constructed as part of the pool or may be portable or removable equipment. Ramps may be located either in the primary pool area or in a swimout area that leads into the primary pool area.


Unlike ladders, stairs provide gradual steps into the pool. They may be a permanent part of the pool, built into the pool tank or into the wall of the pool, or be removable and portable. Stairs may be narrow or wide.

Transfer Steps

Transfer steps continue the pool stairs to a transfer surface on the pool deck. The transfer surface will be seat height, allowing someone to transfer from a wheelchair and move to and from the water, one step at a time. They can be either permanent or movable.

Zero Depth Entry

Zero depth entry pools provide an end of the pool where the pool bottom begins at the deck level and gradually slopes to a deeper level. This creates an entry similar to that of a beach.