Area public swimming pools are about to become more accessible to people with disabilities.
A new federal law goes into effect next week mandating that every public pool in the country install a power lift chair.
There are only a few companies in the U.S. that manufacture these chairs, so the orders are back-logged.
The Merrifield Pool in Mishawaka is on the waiting list for a chair, even though they ordered it this winter.
Park Superintendent Terry Zeller says despite the chair's high cost, $6,000, they don't plan on raising entry fees. "We're just meeting federal requirements and will not pass that on to the public." Zeller also says the pool will open as schedule even though the chair won't likely be in until mid-June.
The YMCA in South Bend ordered their chair months ago, and just got part of it in today.
They are all trying to comply with a new federal regulation requiring pools be more accessible to the disabled.
"It's about safety. It's about liability. It's what you can offer to the public," says Amy Milliman, YMCA Aquatics Director. Milliman says disabled swimmers will be able to use the chair to get out of the water by themselves. "It's very liberating."
There has been some confusion over whether or not the chairs can be portable or have to be bolted down.
The new Kroc Center in South Bend has a brand new lift chair, but it's portable. The hotel industry is asking that portable chairs, which are less expensive and can be stored away, be allowed. However, the Justice Department has ruled that the chairs must be fastened down, unless a "fixed 'lift" is not achievable.
WSBT contacted the Holiday Inn Express on Washington in South Bend they too have a stationary lift chair on order, but say it won't be in until sometime in June.
The deadline to comply with this new federal regulation has been extended to May 21st. However, local pool operators are not expecting to face any fines as long as they can prove they have the chair on order.
Because this new federal mandate is not funded, the St. Joseph County Health Department does not anticipate trying to regulate that every pool be in compliance, but instead will act is a complaint is filed.
There has been some confusion over whether the lift chairs can be portable, which is a cheaper option, or must be fixed.
The hotel industry has pushed for the government to allow portable ones which can be brought out only when requested.