Recently I was designing a handicapped accessible pool and spa for Sgt. Brian Jergens, who was severely injured by a roadside IED during his first deployment in Afghanistan.
During the conceptual design phase, I researched the various methods of creating an accessible pool and facilities. The goal was to have an accessible backyard, without it looking like a roadside motel with a deck mounted lift.
There are 3 primary methods to provide handicapped people access to the swimming pool - lifts, ramps and transfer walls.
Lifts are hideous and downright UGLY.
Ramps can be incorporated into organic designs. They are easily camouflaged as beach entries on lagoon or pond style pools. On contemporary pools, a ramp easily consumes a lot of space. Inside the pool, the ramp required railings and curbs.
Since the site for this project already had some minor changes in elevations, I opted for a transfer wall. One long wall of the pool would be 18 inches above grade, allowing for an easy transition into the pool from a wheelchair. Additionally, it would allow for the use of an automatic safety cover and would not look like it was a "special pool."
Outdoor Kitchen, Benches and Seating Areas
Next came the hardscape and kitchen counters.
Countertop heights needed to be adjusted and access provided to allow a wheelchair to easily roll under the countertop.
The elevations of the bbq & sink needed to be adjusted to permit access while in a seated position. Those these would be a little lower for able bodied people, they would ensure that access was always available.
Extra space for wheelchair turnarounds and movement had to be accounted for between planters, curbs and fixed benches. Concrete benches had to be of a sufficient height to allow ease of transfer from a wheelchair.
Concrete benches had to have sufficient seat widths and backs to support users and to prevent tumbling. Ramps and sloping walkways required curbs to prevent wheels from inadvertently rolling into planter beds or runaway wheelchairs from careening off onto the lawn.
The Government ADA guidelines provide a lot of guidance when designing and developing outdoor spaces for the disabled. Though the guidelines are intended for public spaces, their criteria and dimensions are directly applicable to private homes as well.
ADA guidelines can be found at:
Construction details and diagrams for buildings, facilities, outdoor spaces & swimming pools:
There is absolutely no reason why handicapped accessible facilities need to look sterile and industrial. With a little thought and effort, the design can look clean and contemporary, while remaining functional!
To learn more about the efforts to build the pool and backyard for this deserving veteran, please like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BuildBrianAPool.
Paolo Benedetti - Aquatic Artist
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa