You might have noticed hotels and other public places with swimming pools making sudden changes to their facilities lately. They’re adding chair lift devices to pools and hot tubs. These devices can lift someone in a wheelchair from the ground and lower the person into the water.
Have the hotels suddenly discovered that there’s a hot untapped market in catering to people in wheelchairs who are hankering to use swimming pools? Not at all. They’re simply being forced to spend a lot of money to comply with new federal regulations handed down by the Obama administration in the name of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And the new rules might close some pools.
The new rules go into effect today. They cover lots more things than just chair lifts, but that’s one of the more prominent ones. The new lifts cost between $5,000 and $10,000 each. If a hotel has a pool and a hot tub — even side by side — it’s not enough to have one unit that can be moved between the two places. No, the regulations require one for the pool and one for the hot tub, even if nobody uses either one of them. And if a hotel fails to comply, the penalty can be as much as $55,000.
Many people are hesitant to criticize rules that are designed to “accommodate” people with disabilities, but there’s a very real and very fair question to ask. Is it right to force everyone to pay for very expensive modifications to hotels and other public facilities just to suit the possible needs of a tiny fraction of people? What gives those people a constitutional or moral right to demand that we pay for what they want or decide they need?
And it’s not just chair lifts. Rules handed down related to ADA compliance in the past have suddenly changed. For instance, it used to be that a light switch had to be located 52 inches above the floor. Why 52 inches? Who knows? Some bureaucrat decided that at some point, so it became law. Now a different bureaucrat had decided the proper height for the switch is 48 inches, so a switch installed at the old federally demanded height is now the new illegal height. Why do bureaucrats have the right to decide these things?
(Our overlords have graciously granted special dispensation on this point. Switches already built at 52 inches can remain there, but new ones must be at 48 inches. Does this mean people using the older rooms are being “discriminated” against?)
Other random changes for hotels are more difficult to comply with. If a hotel had formerly put all of its ADA-compliant rooms into one area, that’s no longer allowed:
One of the biggest changes is the location of accessible rooms within a hotel. They must be dispersed evenly throughout the hotel based on room type and other amenities. If a property offers rooms with king, queen and double beds, accessible rooms must offer the same. And hotels must make available preferred view rooms, such as those showing the ocean.
Why does the federal government — in the person of nameless bureaucrats — get to decide how a hotel runs its business and who it wants to cater to? It’s simply because somebody has decided it’s not “fair” that the world is a very different experience for some people. They’ve decided that what’s “fair” is for us to pay for their desires to modify the world — and they don’t really care to let the market work instead.
If you can justify these sort of coercive and arbitrary rules, are there any rules you can’t justify? If these are moral and legal, isn’t it just as moral and legal to dictate color schemes or types of background music or the comfort of restaurant seating? If you can justify the things demanded by the ADA, you can justify anything that any bureaucrat can dream up.
Life isn’t fair. It makes some of us less bright, some of us less attractive and some of us disabled. Choosing to steal from the rest of us doesn’t make life any more fair to the disabled. It just makes all of us victims of theft — and it turns them into a class of people who feel entitled to being treated as they demand.