Local hotels work on changing pools to help people with disabilities

Swimming pool at Comfort Suites in Cicero

Local hotels are working hard to comply with new regulations from the federal government.

As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says every hotel swimming pool must provide a chair or slop to help disabled people get into the water. Hotels have until March 15th to comply.

Elizabeth Berg, of Comfort Suites in Cicero, says the hotel is busy figuring out how much the new equipment will cost. She says she has heard from other hotels that the changes could cost between $8,000 and $12,000. However, she hopes this change will encourage more people to stay at the hotels, and that more groups of disabled people will host their pool parties there. Pool parties are a large part of the hotel's business.

Berg says Comfort Suites should begin installing the new equipment within the next week.

"If it betters the guest experience, then it's something we should do," says Berg. "We are excited to offer that to all of our guests, so all of our guests can have a great experience."

Disability advocates from Enable in Syracuse say they think the regulations are a good idea. Executive Director Sara Wall-Bollinger says it's about more than accessibility. It's about inclusion.

"It's not just the physical access," says Wall-Bollinger. "It's that they participate with other guests. That's what the law is about, and that's what we all want."

However, North Country Congressman Bill Owens (D-23rd District) has concerns about the way the new regulations were written.

Owens says the official regulations say the hotel owners must install the lifts in their pools as long as it is "easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense." He says the rule is overly broad and has left many in the hotel industry confused about requirements and penalties.

"Tourism and lodging contribute a great deal to the region's economy and are critical to our continued economic recovery," said Owens. "Without clarity, small businesses and entrepreneurs will be forced to waste time and money on litigation and result in higher costs for consumers."

Owens says he has written to the Department of Justice multiple times to ask for clarification.