Inter-Fab's Keith Monk On The ADA Deadline For Commercial Pools

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 second in a series.

Keith Monk, national sales director, Inter-Fab, Tucson, Ariz.

AQUA: Are people generally aware of the new requirements and the deadline?

Monk: It’s really hard to pin it down. Many of the larger hotel chains are aware of it. I guess if I had to put a number on it, based on the phone calls that we get and anecdotally out in the field what I get from my reps, it seems like maybe 70 percent of the facilities that need to be in compliance know about this. 

We’ve conducted about 150 seminars with distributors and dealers, and the dealers specifically are in contact with these facilities. Obviously they’re making them aware. In some cases the facilities’ lawyers make them aware. In other cases the facilities’ liability insurance carrier will make them aware. 

AQUA: What about compliance?

Monk: Compliance is way lower than that. Of course, some of these larger lodging groups have already make commitments to purchasing access equipment in bulk that they’re going to provide for their hotel chains or franchisees or however they’re set up. But most of them are not in compliance at this time. They’re just preparing the way. If I had to put a guess on the level of compliance at this point, I’d have to say it’s about 10 percent. It’s real low at the moment. 

Because the deadline is March 15, and because many of these facilities have budgets that are calendar year, many of them were not able to put it into their budgets until 2012. We’re seeing a flurry of activity since the new year when they were able to put it into their budgets and start scheduling installations.

AQUA: As a manufacturer, are you aware of what sort of enforcement effort there’ll be?

Monk: The enforcement varies considerably, depending on the municipality. This is a federal thing — it’s the justice department — but there are some municipalities that have categorized this as a safety issue, so they’ve taken it upon themselves to enforce, or at least try to get compliance, with their health departments. But to my knowledge at this time, which is only anecdotal and based on calls we get and from talking to reps, that’s not really common.

In most cases, the inspectors — health and safety, building inspectors — are taking a hands-off approach for the most part and saying, ‘This is a federal thing and we’ve got enough to do.’ There are some, though, that have taken a very proactive approach.

Now, that all may change as we near the date and those municipalities talk to their lawyers and things. They may feel like they’ve got a liability issue if they don’t take a more proactive approach. But all of that is yet to be sorted out.

AQUA: Inter-Fab’s expertise is on the residential side. What made you decide to enter the commercial lift market?

Monk: We felt the manufacturers that were out there were dealing primarily with the commercial properties and commercial dealers, and we service what would be considered smaller commercial customers. For instance a local motel is typically serviced not by one of the big contractors that would build an Olympic-sized pool or a water park. So we have a lot of connections to all of these dealers who would be likely to have relationships with these individual, smaller entities that are still going to have to come into compliance. So that was how we felt we could get the word out. 

We conducted about 150 seminars around the country since last spring to get the word out and to educate, and we were able to do that because of the connection with distribution and dealers who don’t normally deal with the manufacturers of these products.

AQUA: Has there been an increase in residential pool lifts as a result of ADA?

Monk: I think there has been because we got the word out about what’s available. I have spoken to a number of dealers that have said, ‘Hey, I need to let this customer and that customer know about this because they’re disabled and they might be interested.’ So, by the time this is all done it’ll definitely spill over into residential.

AQUA: What about some of the things that are in gray areas, like pools owned by condo associations?

Monk: Well, we have a number of resouces that we provide. The first level is we have a brochure, the back page of which has the very basics of ADA compliance. And then we have a full page of FAQs that goes into more detail. Both of those resources have Websites. That’s where you dig into the real meat of the law, and all of the different things that are around it. 

And then we also have a whole group of additional resources. For example, there are tax incentive for businesses that come into compliance, so we send out a sheet with the basics for being able to get some of this tax credit. 

AQUA: Is that universal? Can any hotel take advantage?

Monk: There are guidelines. If you derive more than like $1 million from the pool, then you’re not eligible, if you’re deriving less, then you are. 

Then we have some dimensions and things that show people what kind of space they need next to the chair so people can wheel up in a wheelchair and get in properly. It has to be operated by the handicapped person without assistance from others, so lifts that require another person to push them out over the water or something like that don’t comply.

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