For nearly two years, LMU officials starred pool-mageddon down, not sure what the best course of action would be. The LMU Pool of the Mary S. Annan natatorium seemed to be in a no-win situation. President Barack Obama imposed sweeping changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2010. The newly expanded rules changed the game for pools across the nation, making it necessary for every public pool to have two “accessible means of entry,” one of which must be a ramp or pool lift. These changes were supposed to go into effect this spring and would have affected all public pools, from municipal facilities, to hotels, to private institutions or organizations that offer public swim programs.
For months LMU Director of Aquatics Floyde Anne Gardner and Director of Foundations Martha Scheidler worked together to find a solution. Scheidler searched for grant opportunities and foundations who might be interested in assisting LMU. For Gardner’s part, she worked to make sure a pool lift was included in upcoming budgets. Unfortunately, the LMU Pool ran into some major issues about a year ago, issues that required the roof to be replaced and further renovation completed. That meant the pool lift would not be in the 2011-2012 budget.
The March 2012 deadline was still looming when national pressure from opponents of the changes argued that there were not enough lifts in the United States to make the law feasible and won a 60-day stay. The opponents further argued that stables of lawyers could pounce on the new law, which would open non-compliant pools to litigation, clogging courts across the country and costing organizations thousands in fines and court fees. Since then, the law has prompted further discussions and more postponements while both sides hash out compromises.
For LMU the issue never was put on the backburner. No matter the political maneuvering that was happening in Washington, the University still sought to have an ADA compliant pool. The lift was put back into budgeting talks for 2012-13 and Scheidler was still searching for the right foundation to help with the project. From the start, she felt like LMU was a good match for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grants. Yes, that Christopher & Dana Reeve. LMU would indeed need Superman to fly to their rescue.
Late last month LMU’s hero announced the recipients of the 2012 Quality of Life grants and the University was one of 69 grantees. The Foundation awarded a total of $425,000 and LMU would receive $5,000 for the pool. The Reeve Foundation provides funding to nonprofit organizations nationwide that aid in providing more opportunities, access and daily quality of life for individuals living with paralysis, their families and caregivers. Created by the late Dana Reeve, the program has awarded 2,055 grants totaling over $15.6 million since 1999.
LMU will use the grant to help underwrite the purchase and installation of an ADA compliant aquatic lift. This piece of equipment will allow accessibility to the pool for youth and adults who have difficulty entering and exiting the pool by way of steps. Once the aquatic lift is available it opens up a world of possibilities for adaptive programming and participation in the Special Olympics and other programs. The lift is vital to LMU’s ability to provide programming including aquatic movement and exercise, swim instruction, introduction to water sports and competitive training. The University has already heard from area school systems, rehabilitation centers and care facilities who are interested in participating in such programs at LMU.
Thanks to Superman, LMU should have the lift installed before the end of 2012. No matter what happens in Washington, LMU’s Pool-Mageddon has been averted.