WC Duke Associates, Inc.

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Customers with disabilities must also be able to contact trained hotel staff who can provide additional information.

There Must Be Room At The Inn

The number of guest rooms designated "accessible" have increased over the past two decades with more and more individuals having disabilities traveling for business or pleasure.  One of continuing problems is the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to receive many complaints involving failed room reservations. The problem is persons with disabilities reserve an accessible guest room, only to arrive at their hotel to discover that the room they reserved is either not available or is not accessible. Accessibility isn't’t a preference, it is a requirement, and the new ADA has teeth and has the potential to bite.
With the 2010 ADA regulations every hotel, timeshare, condo-hotel and other lodging entities are mandated to have in place reservations systems that comply with these new requirements applying to reservations made by telephone, online, or in person. Whereas the regulations do not specifically target internet-based reservations systems, indications from the DOJ are that reservations made on-line should also comply with these new requirements.

Ease And Equality

Your customers with disabilities must be able to reserve rooms with the “same efficiency, immediacy and convenience” as those who do not need accessible rooms. You will need to modify your policies, practices or procedures to ensure that customers with disabilities can make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms. This includes reservations made by telephone, online or in person directly with the hotel as well as through third party reservations systems.

Owners and operators are responsible for making "reasonable" efforts to make accessible rooms available through third party services.  In addition, they must provide these third party services with information concerning the accessible features of a hotel. According to the DOJ, if you make the information available but the third party fails to provide the information or rooms to individuals with disabilities, you will not be responsible.

Information, Information, Information

Reserving an accessible guest room can be a frustrating experience for your customers with disabilities for information about the accessible features of lodging accommodations usually cannot be obtained at the time of the reservation through the hotel reservations service, by looking up the information on a reservations web site, or from any travel agent.
Lodging facilities will have to identify and describe accessible features in the guest rooms offered through its reservations service in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently whether a given guest room meets his or her accessibility needs. At a MINIMUM hotels must supply the following information:

  • Type of room, such as standard, deluxe, executive, suite

  • Number and type of beds, for example king, two queens

  • Communication features including visual alarms and notification devices

  • Bath tub with hand rails and tub transfer bench or roll-in shower

  • Parking such as self, valet

  • Location of an accessible entrance

  • How to contact trained hotel staff who can provide additional information

Customers with disabilities must also be able to contact trained hotel staff who can provide additional information such as check-in procedures if the lobby counter is too high, and locations of accessible restrooms in common areas if not all restrooms are accessible, or information concerning alternate parking arrangements if the customer’s wheelchair lift equipped van is too tall for the parking garage.

What if your hotel is older and doesn't’t meet the 2010 access standards? You may need to provide additional information concerning features that may not comply fully with the ADA standards. Some individuals may be able to use facilities that others could not. For example, a person with limited mobility may be able to use a tub with handrails and a tub transfer bench instead of a wheelchair accessible shower.

The bottom line is that for your customers with disabilities, you can never provide too much information.

Block That Room!

You are now required to hold accessible guest rooms until all other rooms in a specific category are sold, and they are the last to be released for general booking.  In other words, the accessible rooms must be available for your customers with disabilities who really need their accessible features, and not release accessible guest rooms for rental even though the hotel may not be sold out.

In other words, ensure accessible guest rooms are held for use by persons with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented and the accessible room requested is the only remaining room of that type. Allow your customers with disabilities to reserve an accessible guest room of a specific type with certain amenities, then BLOCK and REMOVE the reserved room from all reservations systems. You are making sure when these customers check in, their accessible rooms are available. When these customers reserve an accessible room, they need the features and cannot physically use or adapt to a “regular” room.

You're Only As Good As Your Guarantee

If your hotel has a guarantee policy, then you must change the way accessible guest rooms are guaranteed. Your reservations policy must now guarantee a specific room, not just a certain type of room. In other words, a particular room with specified accessible features, such as a roll-in shower, must be guaranteed at the time of reservation and available and provided to the individual upon check in. You may already be doing this with your reservations systems, but you may need to improve what you are doing as this may be a hot button issue on future ADA litigation.
The new ADA regulations are the result of on-going concerns of the 54 million Americans with disabilities. The new requirements involving reservations will be beneficial for your customers with disabilities and will enhance their business or leisure travel experience.