The ADA Deadline Is Looming. Is The Industry Prepared?

Americans With Disabilities Act logoCommercial pool operators and lift installers are racing to comply with ADA by the March 15 deadline. We ask several industry insiders how prepared the industry is for the changes. This is the first in a series.

Mike Fowler, commercial sales marketing manager, Pentair Water Commercial Water Pool and Aquatics, Sanford, N.C.

AQUA: Are people ready for this?

Fowler: I think the phones are going to start ringing off the hook about March 10. But I’ll be honest with you. No, they’re not ready. If I had to take a guess, I would say there’s probably less than 30 percent of the facilities are really ready. And I’m getting that from the distributors that we talk to, because our sales aren’t real big yet on the lifts. Last week I was at a customer open house all day, and a couple of the reps there that were selling lifts were saying the same thing: that people are just not jumping at it right now. Some are, but the majority have not really dug into it yet. So the rate of compliance is really low right now.

I think what people have to understand, too, is that places that already have lifts in existence, they still need to make sure their lifts are compliant under the new regulations. 

AQUA: Is the low rate of compliance a function of there not being enough time since it was decided, or is it just human nature, and given another year to do this are we having the same conversation 12 months down the road?

Fowler: There have been a lot of different things — advertising, promotions — how much has actually hit the facilities themselves? I’m sure there’s a good amount of the facilities that don’t have a clue about this. 

They had a year already. This regulation went into effect March 15, 2011, so they had a year to comply with it. But I think a lot of people are still taking the attitude of, ‘Well, who’s going to enforce it? Do I really need to have this?’ So people are taking different stances as to whether they’re going to comply right now or not.

The awareness is a lot greater than it was six months ago. But I’ve gone to a couple of different facilities and said, ‘Hey, are you aware of this new regulation?’ and about half of them say, ‘No. I wasn’t aware of that.’ 

Some of these bigger facilities with the large bodies of water might have a lift on their pools, but if they surpass that 300 foot perimeter deal, then some of them need to have a second point of entry. So there’s a lot to this thing, and I’m thinking the percentages aren’t really high for people who are complying with it right now.

This is a federal regulation, but are the local jurisdictions going to really be enforcing this? That’s a big question, too.

AQUA: What is the business you’re going after? Are you concentrating on any particular commercial segment?

Fowler: We’re going after everything. We’re targeting every customer we have, talking to every distributor we have that sells to the service trade and construction guys that are involved in residential and commercial. We’ve had customer events, done different presentations at those events, spoken to different sales groups at the shows, things like that. We’re doing that to not so much promote our product, which we’re of course really trying to do, but to just make people aware that this is the regulation, this is the deal.

AQUA: Is there time to do this if everybody works at peak efficiency — manufacturer, distributors, schedulers, installers, clients?

Fowler: No. We’re working with a manufacturer, and that manufacturer is going to get orders, we’re going to get orders. And we’re telling people: do not wait. Look at the VGB Act a few years ago — this is a little different. What they did to the manufacturers is when they finally crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s on the regulation, they basically said you’ve got to be in compliance in four or five months. Well, all of us as manufacturers had to scramble to get things certified and done to be ready. This is a little different. This has basically been on the end users, who have had a whole year to comply. Now, are the biggest manufacturers bringing in more people, stocking up on parts? I heard they were. But, with that being said, I think if you get the March 10 and you think, ‘Oh, gosh. I’d better get a lift because I’ve got to be compliant in five days.’ I think as long as you’ve got the proof that you’ve placed an order for the lift there’s going to be some leniency, I’m sure. It’s better than not having one, I guess.

But we’ve told people all along, ‘You know this is happening. Place your orders now. There may be a two or three week lead time, and if you wait until mid-February or the first of March, you may be looking at a long wait, depending on what happens.

AQUA: Do you think part of the lack of urgency has to do with this not really being a safety and liability issue?

Fowler: Some people have been thinking it would be the insurance companies that are pushing it. But yeah. Are they going to shut a pool down because you don’t have a lift on it? No. Are they going to shut a pool down because your drain isn’t compliant? Some of that was happening in certain jurisdictions. I think the struggle is with a lot of these facilities is that they don’t have a lot of money. I mean, it’s a good chunk of change to buy a lift that you may use every three months. I would hope that if there are facilities that frequently have a physically challenged guest, that they’d have jumped on it already. Places like that probably do have something in place.

You know, we hope that everybody complies with it, but it’s going to be people’s decision whether they do or not.

AQUA: You mentioned you were conducting some seminars and raise awareness. What other resources do you have?

Fowler: On our website, www.pentaircommercial.com, we have our full literature on the lifts that we carry, we have all the manuals and specifications for those lifts. 

We have what we call a verification guide available where they can see, based on what pool or spa they have, what the best lift is going to be.

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