Handicap accessibility is a government-ordered requirement for public buildings. However, some structures that are available to the public, such as swimming pools, do not have that requirement. Some pools do offer handicap accessibility options, allowing those who are in wheelchairs or are otherwise handicapped to take advantage of swimming pools. In fact, swimming pools can be quite therapeutic to the physically disabled.
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Sloped Entry Ramps
A sloped entry into a pool is one of the easiest ways to make a pool handicap accessible. These pool ramps are held to the same standards as land-based handicap accessibility ramps. Handrails are typically required on both sides of the ramp with a spacing of at least 36 inches between the rails. The slope should be no more than an 8 1/3 per cent grade. The ramp must also consist of slip-resistant material. Wheelchairs are not recommended to be submerged; however, special water wheelchairs made from PVC pipe are available.
Many handicap-accessible pools that are built for the use of mainly handicapped people have a zero-entry ramp built in. These ramps are actually a part of the floor of the pool and allow a physically disabled person to gradually enter the water down a gentle slope the width of the pool. This entry is similar to the way the ground gradually lowers when entering the ocean or a lake. These ramps are ideal for those in wheelchairs and even for smaller children.
A person that has difficulty walking down a ramp would benefit from a pool lift installed in the pool. These lifts are required to be located at a depth of no more than 48 inches to allow for someone to assist from inside the pool. Various seat types are available, but all must be at least 16 inches across. All pool lifts must be able to support up to 136kg. Users must be able to operate the lift independently both from its raised state and from in the pool. Footrests are required for all pool lifts, while armrests are optional. The lift must lower to at least 18 inches below the water's surface.
Some pools are equipped with a transfer wall to assist disabled people with entering into the pool. These walls are generally used in conjunction with another accessibility device, such as a ramp. These walls have a bar or two that allows the physically challenged individual to leave her wheelchair and move into the pool. The wall should be between 16 and 19 inches high, and grab bars should be 24 inches apart. The wall should be 12 to 16 inches wide to allow for someone to sit on the top and at least 60 inches long. Corners should be rounded to prevent injury.
Transfer systems, similar to transfer walls, are a way for a disabled person to leave his wheelchair and enter the pool. A platform 19 inches deep by 24 inches wide must be located on the deck of the pool for transfer from a mobility device. Steps then go down from the platform into the water. These steps should be at least 8 inches down from the one above it. All steps should be 14 to 17 inches deep and 24 inches wide with rounded edges to prevent injury. A grab bar must be present all along the steps at a height of 4 to 6 inches.
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