When I get into an accessible pool, the process is simple. I pull up next to the accessible chair and slide from my wheelchair onto the seat. Then someone flips a switch and I’m quickly lowered into the water. Fun and/or exercise ensues. Then when I want to get out, I slide back onto the lift chair, someone flips a switch and I am lifted back even to my wheelchair. I scoot back onto my chair and go about my business.
If a pool is not accessible, I sit there and watch everyone else splash around and play. I try to overhear their jokes, get irritated by a loud game of “Marco Polo,” and often sit and read while occasionally getting splashed by someone’s cannonball. It’s not that great.
Sure I could roll over and dump myself into the pool from my wheelchair. But then what happens when I want to get out? That’s the hard part. I’m wet and slippery and I usually end up getting my butt scratched by the side of the pool or the steps while I am aggressively yanked on by family, friends, and the occasional passer-by. It’s not easy and sometimes the fun isn’t worth the blood.
So when there is not an accessible lift at a pool, I rarely go in. I rarely have as much fun as everyone else.
Let’s be real for a minute. I understand there are things that a physically disabled person won’t ever reasonably be able to do without the help of other humans — for example mountain climbing. I would never expect a national park to put in a chair lift so I could climb Mt. Ranier with my friends. That seems ridiculous to me because it’s not something the average person does every day. Unfortunately that appears to be the level of ridiculousness that the hotel industry feels about pool lifts.
But a pool lift is not nearly as ridiculous. Using a pool is a common everyday thing that people do. It’s something that I would do if the hotels I stayed at had pool lifts.
The hotel industry needs to look at it like this. If there are stairs to get to the front desk and I can’t reach the front desk, then isn’t it reasonable for them to have to put in a ramp? Of course they will because how am I supposed to check in and give them my credit card if I can’t reach the front desk? Sure they might bring down a clipboard or set up a special accessible check-in desk. But it doesn’t work that way with a pool. They can’t accommodate me by improvising something. And surely if they won’t put in a chair lift they’re not going to build a special accessible pool. If part of the hotel frequented by guests is not accessible, it needs to be made accessible. No matter how many reasons the industry might throw out there about “child safety” or whatever else they pull out, the only real reason is money.
I was not alive during the times when signs like “Whites Only” indicated that black people could not use the same facilities as whites. Even though the signs are gone, there are still instances when tacit discrimination exists and is accepted, unfortunately. For me, pool accessibility is one of those instances. There might not be a sign but when there’s not a pool lift, my brain sees “You can’t go in there.”
Wouldn’t it be fun though if all disabled hotel guests requested hotel assistance in getting in/out of the pool when there was not a lift? Think about that for a minute! I could call up the front desk and say, “I want to get in the pool. Send down four guys and make them stay there until I want to get out.” I am sure if that happened often enough there would be costs incurred in lost time. Then not to mention lawsuits when hotel staff is not trained in lifting people and drops them.
Wouldn’t it just be easier to spend a few thousand bucks to put in lifts? Yes it adds up across hotels, but so does the aggregate cost of lost business, wages, and lawsuits.