Accessibility of water sports centres for people with disabilities or reduced mobility: the main principles

All establishments open to the public (ERP) are required to comply with current legislation on the accessibility of their premises for disabled people or PRMs (People with Reduced Mobility). The establishments concerned are: public swimming pools, aquatic leisure centres, museums, theatres, cinemas, shops, restaurants, educational establishments (nursery schools, secondary schools, universities), sports, religious and health establishments, specialised aquatic rehabilitation centres, administrations, hotels and railway stations, balneotherapy centres, water sports centres, etc. The law requires special facilities for disabled people and those with reduced mobility, including signposting to make it easier to get around and park, and improved signage and lighting within establishments. This advice sheet sets out the main principles to be borne in mind and applied in terms of accessibility for water sports facilities. In this respect, the owners and managers of water sports facilities need to think about how to ensure that these areas are accessible to people with reduced mobility.

What does the law say about the accessibility of water sports facilities in France?

Law 2005-102 of 11 February 2005 on equal rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship for people with disabilities aims to make education, employment, training, culture, sport and leisure accessible to the whole population. It thus establishes a general principle of universal accessibility to everything and for everyone, whatever the type of disability. According to this law, the architectural provisions of establishments open to the public must be such that these premises are accessible to all, whatever the type of disability, particularly physical, sensory, cognitive, mental or psychological. As establishments open to the public (ERP), sports facilities are directly affected by these provisions.

As far as watersports centres are concerned, there are a number of difficulties in interpreting and/or applying this law. Those according to which nautical bases are both places that can house installations open to the public (IOP) such as the platforms of a the marina, but also enclosed premises such as the harbourmaster’s office or the first-aid post, which have the status of establishments receiving the public (ERP), and beaches or floating pontoons, which cannot be considered as either an ERP or an IOP.

The difficulty is that beaches and floating pontoons do not take account of the obligations laid down by law. This makes it more difficult to interpret and apply the law in the specific case of watersports centres. This raises the question of how the law should be interpreted in this situation.

The first step will be to identify and recognise which areas of a water sports centre belong to the ERP and IOP categories, and which do not. This identification involves recognising the characteristics that define each place.

To this end, the managers and owners of the water sports centres must categorise their activities in each of the three locations:

  • These three categories will need to be broken down. In the event of any difficulty in interpretation, the water sports centres will be able to call on specialist bodies such as the departmental consultative committee on safety and accessibility.
  • Once this allocation has been made, the law applies to the place qualified as an ERP and IOP to make them accessible to all. However, as beaches are not directly affected by the regulations, they will be able to use the “handi plage” or “tourisme et handicap” labels to ensure they are accessible.

These accessibility features must include :

  • Physical access with facilities to facilitate access to the quay, pontoon and buildings: access ramps, lifting platforms, wider circulation areas, etc.
  • Signposting to indicate routes, suitable locations and places,
  • Parking spaces,
  • Adapted toilets and showers,
  • Accompaniment service to help disabled people get around, use equipment and understand information.
Accessibilité des bases nautiques aux personnes handicapées

How can you make your water sports base accessible?

Improvements to establishments open to the public (ERP) and facilities open to the public (IOP) are key points in the law on accessibility. They provide safety and comfort for disabled people. For the water sports centres, we have divided the main facilities into three areas:

How can the premises of a water sports centre be made accessible to people with reduced mobility or disabilities?

The premises of the water sports centres are subject to regulations on the accessibility of establishments open to the public (ERP) under the decrees of 1 August 2006 for new ERP and 8 December 2014 for existing ERP. To make these premises accessible and comply with the Disability Act, here are a few changes to be made:

  • Facilitate entry to the premises by installing an automatic opening system, adapted and easily identifiable equipment and furniture, and a magnetic loop for the hearing impaired,
  • Set up changing rooms reserved for and adapted to disabled people as close as possible to pontoons or swimming areas,
  • Cloakrooms should have lateral and vertical grab rails along the length and width of the changing table to make it easier for disabled people to transfer and get dressed, and to avoid any risk of falling,
  • Install one or more showers, depending on how often the premises are used,
  • Provide an amphibious wheelchair for showering,
  • Provide one or more sanitary facilities.

How can bathing areas be made accessible to people with reduced mobility and the disabled?

The bathing areas at a water sports centre are essentially the beach. Although the accessibility of this area is not subject to the Disability Act, here are a few suggestions for making it accessible to PRMs and people with disabilities:

  • Install a roll-up path (beach access mat, wooden path, etc.) to make it easier to get to the sun loungers and the sea,
  • Provide appropriate signage at the bathing area or, more generally, at the water sports centre, so that all visitors can easily find their way around,
  • Provide accessible and adapted areas or deckchairs reserved for people with disabilities. These must be placed throughout the swimming area,
  • Provide specific equipment for people with reduced mobility or disabilities to get into the water: these include wheelchairs with wide wheels that do not sink into the sand. Some chairs, such as the Tiralo or Sofao, have the advantage of floating on the water,
  • Install an audioplage system, a voice guidance system designed to make getting around the beach and swimming safer for blind or partially-sighted people.

How can boarding platforms and pontoons be made accessible to people with reduced mobility and disabilities?

Pontoons are generally used for light craft and usually consist of a central purlin to which “catways” are attached at right angles, along which the boats are moored. Although the floating section is not subject to the Disability Act, here are a few improvements to be made to make the quays and pontoons accessible to PRMs and people with disabilities:

  • Provide easy access to the pontoon: this access must be provided by sufficiently wide walkways (minimum 100 cm) and of sufficient length to avoid too great a difference in level at low tide.
  • The pontoon should be at least 150 cm wide to allow two wheelchairs to pass each other, with a non-slip surface and a wheel-tight edge along the width of the pontoon to prevent wheelchair users from falling.
  • Provide one or more catways reserved for disabled people that are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair,
  • Install a boarding aid (boarding bracket) : The position of the bracket must not impede the movement of other boaters and the transfer of the user must not be exposed to the prevailing winds.
  • Finally, if you plan to be able to swim from the pontoon, you can install a launching device identical to those used in municipal swimming pools (fixed or mobile pool lift).