Protesters seek pool access for people with disabilities

Story highlights

  • Law requires lifts in swimming public and hotel swimming pools
  • Protesters say hotel association has stalled law's implementation
  • Original deadline was March 15, new one is January 2013

"Access is a civil right," chanted more than a hundred demonstrators rallying on Thursday in Washington for a law that would force hotel owners to install pool lifts for people with disabilities.

The protesters, including representatives of the American Association of People with Disabilities, rallied outside the American Hotel & Lodging Association's headquarters. The protesters say the hotel group is stalling the legislation.

Ann Cody, an athlete who is paraplegic, was one of the protesters. "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," Cody said.

According to the Americans With Disabilities Act's revised 2010 standards, all public swimming pools are required to install permanent lifts to make recreation more accessible for people with disabilities. That includes hotel pools. The original deadline for the law was March 15.

At a recent hearing, attorney Minh Vu argued on behalf of the hotel association, pressuring the Department of Justice to reconsider its decision. "The Department of Justice changed the rules on January 31, 2012, only six weeks before the compliance deadline," she said. She added that the Department of Justice did not take into consideration the safety hazards that pool lifts may cause for children and individuals with disabilities.

In May, the Department of Justice decided to postpone the compliance date. The new deadline is January 31, 2013. According to the Census Bureau, there are approximately 54 million Americans living with disabilities.