BY CAROL SOUTH
Special to the Record-Eagle
— TRAVERSE CITY — New rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act mean increased access to swimming pools.
Since the Jan. 31 deadline for public-access pools to install lifts, options for therapy, recreation and exercise have jumped for people with a disability or mobility challenge.
One in five people nationally has a disability, said Jim Moore, executive director of the Disability Network Northern Michigan. The new ADA rule applies to facilities that accommodate the public. No exceptions.
“Change isn’t easy and it does cost money, but there are tax credits available,” said Moore.
The Grand Traverse Resort & Spa installed two fixed units on each of its pools by the deadline. The Resort also had a portable lift on site previously in the indoor pool area.
While the new equipment had not yet been used, health club manager Kristan Mack said it will be. And she appreciates that it operates at the push of a button.
“They are very simple to use,” she said.
For the busy facility, which has thousands of visitors annually as well as 800 club members, it’s only a matter of time.
Hosting a bi-annual Michigan Rehabilitation Conference keeps concepts in focus for the resort’s staff.
“We try to stay really, really in touch with Americans with Disabilities Act compliance,” said J. Michael D’Agostino, public relations manager for the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa.
AmericInn of Traverse City has had an assisted lift for nearly a year. The local hotel installed it to comply with last year’s ADA deadline, later extended to 2013.
Hotel general manager Nick Trahair said the lift, while lightly used so far, provides access to people who have not been in a pool for a while.
“The ones who use it are very grateful,” he said. “Others have been surprised we have one, then people really appreciate it.
“It also introduces people to the pool who have not been able to use one before,” he said.
The Disability Network Northern Michigan has been publicizing the new law by featuring stories on their website.
“We’re looking forward to more access in the area as more of the hotels and accommodations come into compliance,” Moore said, adding that mobility issues can affect people of all ages.