This has been a busy year for the Todd Harris Co. Inc.
The Edison, N.J.-based company supplies portable and permanent swimming pool lifts, which many campgrounds will be required to install by January 2013 to comply with the latest federal accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
But while the prospect of new federal regulations is creating new business opportunities for Todd Harris and other pool lift suppliers, uncertainties about the specific requirements of the new regulations are creating a lot of confusion in the industry.
Carl Bastedo, a regional sales representative for the company, said he routinely receives questions from park operators asking for guidance on the regulations. But even when a park makes a commitment to purchase pool lift equipment, there are several logistical questions that have to be worked out.
“Not all lifts will work with all pool profiles,” Bastedo said, adding that his company typically asks park operators to send photographs of their pools from different angles so that they can determine the best kind of lift to use for their pools.
Park operators also need to determine the weight capacities of the pool lifts they want to use and whether they want to exceed a 300-pound capability.
Park operators also need to take a broad perspective when considering a pool lift, Bastedo said, adding that people needing a pool lift may not only be wheelchair bound guests, but senior citizens with mobility issues or people who are grossly overweight.
“They may not have a hard time getting into the pool, but may need help getting out of it,” Harris said.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Justice has not spelled out exactly what characteristics constitute a person with disabilities nor is it very clear which parks can get by with a portable pool lift vs. a permanent lift.
The costs of pool lifts can be significant. Portable pool lifts range in price from about $5,400 to $6,600, depending on the model and weight capacity. Permanent pool lifts range from roughly $4,000 to $6,000 or $7,000 on the high end for the equipment alone.
These figures do not include the cost of installation, which is typically handled by outside contractors. “We don’t have the manpower to do installations for our customers, but we do advise them,” Bastedo said.
While looming pool lift requirements have dominated campground industry headlines in recent months, there are other types of equipment campground operators can purchase to make their parks more accessible to people with disabilities.
Gerber Manufacturing supplies wheelchair accessible picnic tables with lumber, aluminum or recycled plastic tops, said Chuck Gerber, CEO of the Madison, Wis.-based company.
Jamestown Advanced Products, for its part, provides universal access picnic tables as well as ADA compliant fire rings, which have a screen like design that provides better visibility for campers in wheelchairs, said Shari Eckman, a marketing specialist for the Jamestown, N.Y.-based company. “We’re seeing more demand (for ADA compliant products),” Eckman said.