Later this week, I will release an article detailing the state of accessibility and ADA compliance in low-cost and budget hotels. During the course of my investigation, I stayed at 15 hotels with room rates of under $60 per night. In researching room rates and availability, I noticed a troubling phenomenon: many hotels are charging more for the ADA accessible versions of standard guest rooms.
In some cases, the difference is significant. Take the Rodeway Inn Maingate in Kissimmee, Florida, for example, which is charging people with disabilities $102 more per night for an accessible room.
A standard non-smoking guest room with two double beds is available for $46 per night on the Choice Hotels website. The accessible equivalent of that room is $148 per night, more than triple the room rate for able-bodied guests! This “tax” on accessibility is not unique to this hotel, and is repeated at many other low-cost and budget properties.
The Super 8 in Daytona Beach, Florida penalizes people with disabilities, charging $36 more per night for an accessible hotel room. If you’re not a member in the Wyndham Rewards loyalty scheme, you’ll pay $40 more per night.
The Econo Lodge in Kissimmee, Florida offered a non-smoking room with two double beds for $37 per night. Wheelchair users requiring a roll-in shower would have to pay $19 more for a night in the accessible equivalent of that same room.
The Rodeway Inn Near L.A. Live in beautiful California is in on the racket too, charging $93 for an accessible room with a queen bed. The non-accessible version of that same room is $18 less, at just $75 per night.
Charging more for an accessible hotel room is illegal.
The ADA requires that accessible rooms be “dispersed among the various classes of guest rooms” and hotels shall provide people with disabilities “choices of types of guest rooms, number of beds, and other amenities comparable to the choices provided to other guests.” The regulation advises that hotels consider “room size, bed size, cost, view, bathroom fixtures such as hot tubs and spas, smoking and nonsmoking, and the number of rooms provided,” among other things.
The price disparities referenced above compare rooms of a similar size and amenities, with the only discernible difference being the adaptations required by the ADA. By setting a higher price for a room solely on the basis that it is wheelchair accessible, the hotels referenced here have committed both price and disability discrimination in violation of 28 C.F.R. § 36.301(c), which states:
A public accommodation may not impose a surcharge on a particular individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities to cover the costs of measures, such as the provision of auxiliary aids, barrier removal, alternatives to barrier removal, and reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, that are required to provide that individual or group with the nondiscriminatory treatment required by the Act or this part.
If you are asked to pay more for an accessible hotel room than its non-accessible equivalent, I encourage you to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. Alternatively, you can consult an attorney to discuss other options that may be available to you.
Budget hotels are the “Wild West” of the travel industry
I reached out to Choice Hotels on Twitter, seeking an explanation for the disparities in price based on accessibility. I referenced a specific reservation, and received the following reply:
I am able to see the reservation and I see that the accessible room has a higher room rate. Our hotels are independently owned and privately managed, which means that they set their room rates by themselves.
While room types may seem similar, they can differ in location and amenities. Cheaper rooms can be right next to the elevator or pretty small, more expensive rooms can be located near the lobby with a great view. There can be several reasons why a standard handicap accessible room can be offered at a rate different than the least expensive room at the hotel.
Nonetheless, our hotels are expected to adhere to all ADA regulations, if there are additional concerns please let us know, so we can investigate.
In reviewing the design of various classes of rooms at numerous budget hotels, I have found almost no instances of an accessible room type being larger. And, there is often no differentiation between available room types, other than the size and number of beds and whether the room is smoking or non-smoking. Each of the examples referenced above accounted for these factors, and I made sure to identify room types that were exactly the same, apart from the presence of accessible features.
In following-up with Choice Hotels, I asked about their corporate commitment to ADA compliance and what steps they would take to ensure franchisees are meeting their responsibilities under the law.
It actually is the responsibility of each hotel themselves to ensure that they are meeting all ADA requirements and guidelines. So if a hotel is found not to be meeting guidelines we would send information for them to address since they are all franchised.
Best I can tell, these budget hotel chains don’t have anyone working on ADA compliance, and it really is the “Wild West” of the travel industry. Choice Hotels and Wyndham, the two major players in the low-cost hotel category, exercise little to no oversight, allowing their franchisees to get away with major violations of federal law with no pushback or accountability.
Check back later this week for the results of my investigation into physical accessibility at budget hotels, and you’ll learn more about how this “Wild West” mentality is harming consumers.
Have you been a victim of price discrimination when booking an accessible hotel room?
How do you feel about hotels charging a premium for accessible accommodation?
Let me know in the comments below and be sure to share this article with your friends.