It’s been almost 3 years since the Department of Justice’s revised Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) regulations went into effect, requiring, among other things, that all hotel online reservation systems be ADA compliant. This, in turn, means that the online reservation experience for individuals with disabilities must now be equivalent to the online reservation experience for individuals who do not have disabilities.
Under the 2012 regulations, hotels must:
• Ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms.
• Identify and describe accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms offered through its reservations service in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently whether a given hotel or guest room meets his or her accessibility needs. Information, including details about the configuration of accessible guest rooms and bathrooms; the availability of accessibility equipment or features such as bath benches, or visual alarm and alert devices for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing; and the accessibility of common spaces such as meeting rooms, lounges, restaurants, swimming pools, or fitness centers must be made available.
• Ensure that accessible guest rooms are held for use by individuals 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.
• Reserve, upon request, accessible guest rooms or specific types of guest rooms and ensure that the guest rooms requested are blocked and removed from all reservations systems.
• Guarantee that the specific accessible guest room reserved through its reservations service is held for the reserving customer, regardless of whether a specific room is held in response to reservations made by others.
Surprisingly, many hotels still do not comply with these requirements. For example, some hotels post information about their accessible guest rooms in their online reservation system, but require that individuals seeking such rooms make their reservation by phone or in person. Other hotels post no information at all about the accessibility of their guest rooms or facilities. Both of these practices violate the law, and are actionable.
Third Party Travel Agents:
Hotels that use third-party online travel agents like Orbitz or Expedia are required to provide those agents with information concerning the accessible features of its facilities and guest rooms. Failure to do so may violate the ADA. However, if the hotels provide the required information and the third party agent fails to provide that information on its website, the hotel will not be held liable for the third party’s failure.
The ADA’s new reservation requirements also require that hotels properly train their staff regarding their new reservation policies, and ensure that they are able to identify which specific features are included in their designated accessible guest rooms.
If you plan to travel in the upcoming months and will be making your reservations online – know your rights! If you encounter a hotel website that violates the law, contact CDA at 800-383-7027 for further assistance. CDA will never charge you attorney’s fees.