The Maintenance of Accessibility

Guest Blog #WAHC2017 Feature: by John Caden, S.R.Smith Swimming Pool Accessibility Expert

Over the past several years, swimming pool accessibility has become a significant factor for recreational facilities throughout the United States. Over 300,000 public swimming pools have been affected by a 2010 amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that all public pools be made accessible to everyone. This mandate set off a chain of events that has required learning by every facet of the pool industry. Manufacturers have created new products. Dealers have learned to sell these new products, and installers have learned to install these new products in compliance with ADA requirements. The final step, which also falls under ADA law, is the maintenance aspect of accessibility, which is the subject of this blog.

Though sloped entries and transfer walls are ways to meet ADA requirements, often a mechanical device that assists a user in and out of the pool is the common solution. Pool lifts come in a variety of styles, and are usually the easiest and most economical way to retrofit an existing pool for accessibility.  Additionally, virtually anyone can use a pool lift.  

The procedures that are included in this blog are general. Always check with the manufacturer of your product for specific maintenance suggestions. In order to keep your lift in good working order, follow all instructions in the owner’s manual as well as on product labels.  

All lifts, regardless of the type, have some common elements that should be maintained.

  • Seats should be kept clean and seat belts should be checked regularly to make sure they lock properly.
  • The structure of the lift should also be inspected on a regular basis to make sure there is no corrosion building on the surface. Most lifts are made from corrosion resistant materials, but the corrosive environment of a swimming pool, especially an indoor pool, will always present a challenge in managing corrosion.
  • Additionally, any hardware, such as nuts and bolts used for fastening, should also be inspected on a regular basis to check for signs of developing corrosion, such as pitting. Again, most manufacturers will use stainless steel and marine grade components, but these items should be checked to ensure maintenance of integrity.

For these common components, the following steps can be taken to provide a level of preventative care:

  • After a day’s use poolside, rinse the surfaces of the lift and seat with fresh water. This will remove salts and other chemical residue that may settle on the lift while it is sitting on the deck. Dry the lift with a clean cloth following the rinse.
  • Periodically wax the lift with a soft liquid wax, like Turtle Wax, three or four times a year. This will provide an added layer of protection to the lift surface.
  • Replace any pitting or corroding hardware. Even though manufacturers usually specify stainless steel, marine-grade hardware, users are at the mercy of the supply chain, and can never know whether the quality of the parts received will be up to specifications.
  • For battery powered lifts, the single most important item to maintain is the battery. Batteries should be fully charged daily. They should never be allowed to fully discharge, as this could either damage the battery or reduce its life span. It is a good practice to always keep the battery on its charger when the lift is not in use. Batteries typically cannot be overcharged.
  • The control box is the computer that operates the lift. Even though these components are water resistant, they should still be protected from the elements. Sudden rain showers or misdirected cannon balls can soak the control box and possibly damage the electronics. Try to keep these components dry and remove any accumulated moisture. If a cover is provided for the control console, it should be kept in place whenever the lift is exposed to the elements.
  • The actuator is an electronic component that is normally water resistant. The gearing system within an actuator is usually contained in a sealed chamber to protect it from the elements. The drive shaft of an actuator is normally made from stainless steel, but it should be cleaned and polished on a regular basis to help maintain its appearance.
  • If the lift has any operating gears, they should be inspected on a regular basis to discover any signs of corrosion. The gears should be lubricated periodically and protected with a rust inhibitor.
  • Any other moving parts should be inspected routinely and lubricated as needed.

Swimming pool lifts are machines. One of the facts of life is that machines do encounter problems. Tossing in the added challenge of a harsh swimming pool environment increases the likelihood of encountering a problem.

There are more and more pool companies getting involved in providing service for pool lifts. Many are beginning to offer preventative maintenance programs, as they do for other equipment, such as pumps, heaters, controllers, and filters. 

It’s only common sense that if you spend upwards of $5,000 on an asset, you want to make sure that the asset not only works,  but also lasts a long time. This is not only a good idea…it’s the law.  The ADA regulations stipulate that any equipment used to provide accessibility must be maintained in proper operating condition. Obviously, if a means of access is not working, the result is a swimming pool that is not accessible.  Make sure you have a plan in place.

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