Disability rights activists protest lack of access to hotel swimming pools
Posted at: 08/09/2012 5:59 PM
| Updated at: 08/09/2012 6:47 PM
By: Ray Levato | WHEC.com
There was a pool party on the RIT campus Thursday, but it wasn’t your usual affair. Disability rights activists dressed in beach attire took over the president’s office to protest a lack of access to hotel swimming pools.
To make their point about having full access, the disability rights activists zeroed in on RIT, which owns the RIT Inn and Conference Center on West Henrietta Road. They say this could be the first direct action against a hotel with an inaccessible pool.
The disability rights activists claim the hotel industry is trying to block Americans with Disability Act regulations that mandate full accessibility to hotel swimming pools. They target the RIT Inn and Conference Center because its managing director serves on the board of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
Bruce Darling, Rochester ADAPT, said, “Mr. Gunther and R.I.T. said they'll comply with the law knowing full well that they're taking efforts right now to get rid of the law in the first place. And people with disabilities are not going to sit by and let them take away our civil rights.”
The RIT Inn has two swimming pools, one outdoors and an inside pool. Both would have to be equipped with chair lifts.
William Gunther, R.I.T. Inn Managing Director, said, “Nobody in the hotel community is against putting the pool lifts in. If not for moral and ethical reasons alone, simply the business economics of it makes sense to do it.”
Gunther says ambiguous language that led to Department of Justice moving the deadline back until next January has been cleared up. Video from a medical supplies company shows how the lift would work. The lifts would have to be permanently installed - not portable.
Stephanie Woodward, disability rights activist, said, “I could certainly get in the water if someone wanted to throw me in. It's the getting out part that makes me more worried.”
Stephanie Woodward was born with spina bifida.
Woodward said, “If I can't get out of the pool that's a long time in a pool and a lot of things can happen. But if there were permanent pool lifts that would me the freedom and independence to get in and out of the pool whenever I wanted.”
RIT President Bill Destler spoke to News10NBC. He said he’s sympathetic to their cause and promises installation of the chair lifts at the pools at the RIT Inn and Conference as soon as equipment is delivered.