When a disabled traveler makes a reservation for an accessible hotel room, they expect it to be honored. Accessibility features such as wider doors, grab bars around the toilet or tub, a sink that can be used from a wheelchair, or a roll-in shower are not mere conveniences – they are absolutely necessary. Standard rooms lack these accommodations and may prevent the disabled person or wheelchair user from making use of their room or restroom.
I am a triple amputee. I use a wheelchair. As such, I require a room with a roll-in shower so that I can bathe. When I planned a trip to New York City last month to attend a gathering of disabled people and to review the World Trade Center Observatory, I made a reservation online for a room at the Renaissance New York Hotel 57. After making the reservation, I called Marriott’s corporate Americans with Disabilities Act assistance line. This department called the hotel and confirmed a room with a roll-in shower.
Just to be safe, I called the ADA line again 2-3 days before arrival and reconfirmed that the roll-in shower was set aside for me. It was confirmed.
Check-in went smoothly at the hotel. When I arrived to my room, though, it had a tub. I called the front desk, alerted them to the mix-up, and asked to be moved to the room I had reserved. Since I was meeting a NYC-based friend for drinks in the hotel lounge/bar, I gave them ample time to correct the matter.
After finishing in the lounge, I returned to the front desk and asked for my new room keys. The front desk manager told me that the room with the roll-in shower was already occupied by another guest. She had been unable to reach them to ask if they would change rooms. This led me to believe that an able-bodied guest had been given the accessible room.
Being an easygoing and perhaps too forgiving traveler, I offered to look at other room types to see if they would work for the night. None of the bathrooms I saw would have allowed me to take a shower. I returned to the front desk and made it clear that the rooms I had seen would not work.
The front desk manager asked, “Do you need a shower tomorrow?”
My answer was of course, YES. What hotelier would ask a guest that? Especially in Manhattan and at one of Marriott’s more luxurious brands. I suppose disabled people just don’t need to bathe.
Following that exchange, the manager called several nearby Marriott properties to ask them to accommodate me. The New York Marriott East Side was less than a mile away, had a roll-in shower and met my needs perfectly. The Renaissance 57 sent me with a walk letter and covered one night at the new hotel. The manager acted as though she was doing me a favor.
Let’s consult the Americans with Disabilities Act:
§ 36.302 Modifications in policies, practices, or procedures. (Full Text)
(e) (1) Reservations made by places of lodging. A public accommodation that owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of lodging shall, with respect to reservations made by any means, including by telephone, in-person, or through a third party
- (i) Modify its policies, practices, or procedures to ensure that individuals 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;
- (ii) 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;
- (iii) 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;
- (iv) 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; and
- (v) 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.
It is clear, then, that the Renaissance New York Hotel 57 violated the ADA and my rights by giving the accessible room I had reserved to another guest. Instead of immediately recognizing their failure and organizing alternate accommodations, they first checked to make sure I needed a bath. That was dignified.
A brief aside — I have elite member status in multiple hotel rewards programs. In 2014, I stayed at Marriott-family hotels a total of 148 paid nights. As such, I have Platinum status with Marriott and my stays are subject to the Elite Member Guarantees. The reservation guarantee states the following:
If for some reason we’re unable to honor your reservation, we’ll pay for your accommodations that night at a nearby hotel and compensate you for the inconvenience. To be eligible, you must provide your Marriott Rewards membership number when making a reservation. Compensation varies by hotel brand. [ALL LEVELS]
I asked for the guarantee to be paid – $200 cash and 90,000 rewards points, in addition to the room rate at the new hotel. The manager said she was not able to authorize that, but would have the hotel’s general manager call me the next day. That call never came. I left a voicemail. It was not returned. I called Marriott’s Corporate Customer Care. They have set two response deadlines on the hotel. Neither have been met.
I cannot back down. Certainly, I am interested in the cash and points. But more importantly, there must be consequences for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. We cannot forget that the ADA is civil rights legislation. For America’s disabled citizens, ADA protections are just as important to our quality of life as the Bill of Rights.
The longer this wears on, the more likely I will be to file a complaint against the hotel with the Department of Justice. It is time for Marriott to step up to the plate and require their franchised hotel to honor the reservation guarantee.
Has a hotel failed to honor your ADA reservation? What did you do?
Update, 6/19/2015: I spoke with a Corporate Customer Experience Supervisor who called the hotel and was told that the GM was not available to speak. A response deadline set for Tuesday, June 16 was not met by the hotel. I was told to call Bill Marriott’s office. The secretary contended that the reservation was honored since I was offered a bed, making me ineligible for the reservation guarantee. It appears there is a greater issue at play. Marriott’s corporate office is either uninformed as to the ADA requirements or is purposefully holding a position contradictory to the law. Mr. Marriott’s office has imposed a new 72-hour deadline on the hotel to respond to me. I may now be forced to pursue further action, since the Marriott position is a violation of the civil rights of disabled people.
Update, 7/18/2015: The hotel’s general manager reached out to me and provided the compensation outlined in the Ultimate Reservation Guarantee. Additional points were awarded and he has invited me back to the hotel for a free two-night stay so that I will ave the opportunity to give the hotel a proper review. I was more than satisfied with this response and look forward to my future stay and review of the hotel’s accessible room.