Disability activists protest pool regulations delay

Inaccessible Pools

Hundreds of disability activists protested in front of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Washington, DC headquarters on June 14, in response to the Department of Justice’s recent announcement that it was delaying new accessibility regulations for pools that were part of the 2010 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Let’s be clear on what this is really about: giving people with disabilities less than other customers who pay for a hotel room. In America, we don’t treat any group of people differently. That’s called discrimination,” said Mark Perriello, CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, in a news release. “The American Hotel & Lodging Association and its member hotels are flexing their muscles to get our government’s permission to treat us as second-class customers. Well guess what? We have power too. We’re not waiting at the sidelines. And we’re not going to let them spend our money to do it.”

The regulations would have required hotels to install lifts to assist people with disabilities to enter their pools. After an intensive lobbying effort from the the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the DOJ delayed the rules for 60 days beginning on May 15, the day the regulations were supposed to go into effect. The association, the hotel industry’s main trade organization, threatened to close some pools rather than install the lifts, which cost between $3,000 and $6,000 on average.

On May 18, the DOJ announced that it would delay the regulations until January 31, 2013.

“Hotels have had 22 years to comply with the ADA,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network. “Certainly that’s enough time for an industry that spends millions of dollars each year on flowers and flat screen TVs to spend a few thousand dollars to buy the equipment necessary to make pools accessible to the millions of people – all potential customers – in this country who have disabilities.”

The rally was organized by the AAPD, NDRN, ADAPT and the National Council on Independent Living.

“This summer, 70% of Americans will be going on vacation and staying at a hotel with a pool — it is something that is very important and it is a summertime activity that our communities celebrate in and participate in — and most of us with disabilities don’t have an opportunity to engage with our neighbors and friends and families because they aren’t accessible,” Ann Cody, an athlete who is paraplegic, told CNN.