The Justice Department on Thursday issued a 60-day stay of execution for hundreds of thousands of public pools which had been required to install ramps and wheelchair lifts by today or else face lawsuits over violating disability laws.
President Obama in 2010 dramatically expanded the rules for access under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the new regulations mean that every publicly accessible pool — from municipal facilities to hotels — must have two “accessible means of entry,” at least one of which must be a ramp or wheelchair lift. Spas must also have either a lift or a transfer system to help the disabled enter them, under the new rules.
Under the law, non-compliant facilities can be sued — and some lawmakers feared a bonanza for lawyers eager to capitalize.
The impending situation was labeled “pool-mageddon” by opponents, who said there aren’t even enough lifts available in the U.S. to make every pool accessible.
Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, both South Carolina Republicans, were trying to speed a bill through the Senate on Thursday to lift the regulations, but it did not see action before the chamber adjourned. Lawmakers won’t be back until Monday.
Late Thursday the Obama administration acted, granting its 60-day reprieve and saying it will also float the idea of a full six-month extension to give pools “additional time to address misunderstandings regarding compliance.”
“DOJ have been forced to admit they made a big overreach and are now retreating with a two-month delay on this unnecessary regulation,” said Wesley Denton, a spokesman for Mr. DeMint.
He said his boss will still to try to pass his bill.
“This isn’t over,” he said. “Senator DeMint will continue fighting to stop this big government mandate from being implemented so public pools can have the flexibility to work directly with people with disabilities.”