An Informal Study on Pool Accessibility

As I make my way across the country on this two-month road trip, I just can’t help checking out the swimming pools at the properties I stay at along the way. Not only do I really enjoy the water, but I’m also interested in seeing how many properties are taking steps to be in compliance with the new ADA accessibility regulations for pools and spas. Granted, the regulations don’t go into effect until January 2013, but I’m just curious about how we are doing right now. And although it’s far from a scientific study, here’s what I found out about pool accessibility – or lack thereof – in a wide range of properties across America.

Best Western Plus Gold Country Inn – Winnemucca, NV

It was bloody hot by the time we pulled into this property at 4 in the afternoon, so the first thing we did was hit the pool. We were not alone, as it looked like the majority of guests also had the same idea. And although it was a great place to cool down, the pool was sadly lacking a pool lift. And when I looked around the pool area, there appeared to be no structural problems preventing them from installing a lift. Hopefully this will be remedied soon, as this is one place where the pool is an essential component of your stay. It’s just a necessity when it’s that hot!

Best Western Landmark Inn – Park City, UT

This upscale resort property has a nice indoor pool and spa area, but unfortunately no pool or spa lift. From the looks of the property, I don’t think they can claim that installing a pool lift isn’t readily achievable from an economic point of view, as they even have the resources to furnish a nice pool table in the pool area. And there’s certainly no barriers that would prevent them from installing a pool lift.

Snow Mountain Ranch – Granby, CO

I was happy to find excellent pool access at this fun outdoor camp which features a nice wheelchair-accessible yurt. The spacious pool has a ramp with a railing and a water wheelchair, so everybody can enjoy it. And I have to say that this access was in place from the beginning, so there was no need to retrofit anything when the new regulations came out. It’s all very well done.

Best Western Town N Country – Rapid City, SD

This property lacks a pool lift, and quite frankly I just don’t expect to see one in the near future. After all, until just recently this same property displayed a photograph of a non-existent hot tub on their website. According to front desk personnel, the hot tub was removed when the pool area was updated about a year ago; however the owner just didn’t want to take the photograph off of the website. And with an attitude like that, I’m thinking he may not exactly jump on the pool lift bandwagon. I could be wrong, but I’m really not expecting much from this property.

Abe Martin Lodge – Nashville, IN

Located in rural Indiana, Abe Martin Lodge not only has a pool lift, but they also have a nice indoor water park. This was my second visit to the property, and I’m happy to report that they’ve had the lift in place from day one.

West Baden Springs Hotel – French Lick, IN

This beautiful property was built in the early 1900s and has been lovingly restored to its former grandeur. That said, historic does not necessarily mean inaccessible, as the property has a nice wheelchair-accessible room and a portable pool lift ready for use in the pool area. The lift is just steps from the pool, but out of the main traffic path, so it’s not an tripping obstacle for guests. It’s very easy to use, and there are plenty of folks on hand if you have any questions. Oh, and the pool is gorgeous

Best Western Kentucky Inn – Cave City, KY

Just as I was becoming very frustrated with Best Western properties for their lack of apparent compliance, I ran across this little gem in rural Kentucky. Kudos to this tiny littlie property for making efforts to comply with the new regulations. I was thrilled to see two lifts – one for the pool and one for the spa – ready for installation. If this property can do it, then certainly other Best Westerns can do it too.

Hampton Inn — Caryville, TN

This is a nice property with a very gregarious owner, but the pool was covered and the spa was filled in with cement. Not sure what’s going on there, but I can say for sure that there is no pool lift.

Quapaw Baths — Hot Springs, Arkansas

Newly opened in a historic building, these baths have good wheelchair access at the entrance and a very nice roll-in shower and accessible toilet stall in the locker room. Sadly there is no pool lift though. As the attendant told me, you have to be able to get in and out of the pool on your own. Now granted this place is historic (lots of old tile) but there’s really no reason why they can’t have a portable lift that could be used for the three lower pools. There is an attendant on duty (actually two when I was there) so there would always be someone who could move it from pool to pool. I’m hoping that this National Park concessionaire will take measures to make the pools accessible to everyone, because quite frankly it’s just a lovely place to soak.

Best Western Plus Castlerock Inn & Suites – Bentonville, AR

This is a very nice new property in the up-and-coming cultural district of Bentonville, with a very nice pool and spa. Unfortunately there was nary a lift in sight! Hopefully that will change, as there seems to be the budget for it (judging form the rest of the décor), and there’s certainly room for it too.

Best Western Rail Haven – Springfield, MO

I was happy to see a pool lift at this property that dates back to Route 66 times. The seat for the pool lift was not attached, but it was stored about 10 feet away – presumably to keep kids from playing on it. Granted it was in full view and looked easy enough to attach, but as we all know, that’s not how the new regulations read. Hopefully this property will bring things up to snuff by the time the regulations go into full effect next year.

The Broadmoor – Colorado Springs, CO

I just can’t say enough good things about this very luxurious Colorado property. In short, if you need it, they will make it happen. Their pools are gorgeous – they have an indoor one and an outdoor one – and both are outfitted with the appropriate lifts. And when I talked with a staff person about it, she seemed puzzled at my reaction to the proper placement of the lifts, “Well of course we have them”, she said matter-of-factly. “After all, it’s the law.”

Riverbend Hot Springs – Truth or Consequences, NM

I didn’t exactly visit this property on this trip, but I felt it should be included on my list here, as it illustrates a certain attitude. First off, I have to say that I love going to this hot springs, but when I asked the owner if he was going to be putting lifts in his pools, he flat out said no. He then informed me that he had received special dispensation from the state that exempts him from the new regulations. I was very disappointed, because it would be very easy to add lifts to his Minnow Pools and the private hot tubs. And I’m a little hard pressed to believe that it’s not a readily achievable project, especially since he’s putting so much money into other improvements. Hopefully something will happen to change the owner’s mind, as it’s a very nice hot springs resort.

So there it is, the good, the bad and the totally unexplainable as far as pool lifts are concerned. As I said, there’s still time for everybody to be in compliance with the new regulations, so hopefully we’ll see some changes in the non-compliant properties by next year. After all, swimming is something that everyone can enjoy.

Time will tell.