The Americans with Disabilities Act requires hotels to maintain a booking and reservations system that is accessible to people with disabilities. In 2010, the Department of Justice opened a case against Hilton Hotels for violations of rules pertaining to ADA hotel room reservations. This case was meant to enforce the rights of people with disabilities to book accessible hotel rooms and to send a message to other companies in the industry. In this article, I will discuss the ADA’s rules for reservation systems, and I will provide a few tips to make booking an accessible room easier.
ADA Regulations for Hotel Room Reservations
The following fives rules come from 28 CFR Part 36, a series of federal regulations maintained by the Department of Justice. I have translated these regulations into layman’s terms, but you can access the full legal text in §36.302. Hotels must:
- Allow people with disabilities to make accessible room reservations in the same way as able-bodied guests (online, over the phone, etc.).
- Describe the accessible features of a guest room in enough detail so that people can determine if the room will meet their individual accessibility needs.
- Hold accessible rooms for reservation by guests with disabilities until all standard rooms of that class or type are sold.
- Remove an accessible room from inventory as soon as it has been reserved; overbooking of ADA rooms is prohibited.
- Guarantee that the customer receives the specific accessible guest room or guest room type he/she reserved. This covers bed type, number of beds, bathroom fixtures, etc.
Let’s explore questions about these rules and more in the following answers to FAQ. If you have a question you’d like to be answered here, please add it in the comments at the bottom of this page.
Can I reserve an accessible hotel room on a third-party booking site?
The 2010 ADA standards extended some, but not all of the accessible room reservation requirements to third-party hotel booking sites like Priceline, Expedia and Travelocity. In short, OTAs are supposed to list accessible room inventory that they receive from their hotel partners. If an accessible room is available, it should be offered to you, but it is up to the hotel itself to confirm or guarantee reservations.
As a result, many travelers with disabilities have had poor experiences using these third-party websites. Is a few dollars of savings really worth the additional hassles and problems of involving a third party? For this reason, I strongly recommend that you make room reservations through the hotel directly. For special offers and savings on hotel rooms, visit the Travel Resources page.
Which hotel chains provide the best descriptions of accessible room features?
In my own life as a wheelchair traveler, I have spent hundreds of nights in hotels and stayed more than 200 individual properties across many of the different hotel chains. Here is a sentence or two quantifying my experience with some of the major hotel brands’ internet reservation systems:
- Choice Hotels — The majority of ADA rooms are listed only as “Accessible,” but they are unlikely to be ADA compliant. You should call the hotel after making a reservation to confirm a room with either a roll-in shower or bathtub.
- Hilton Hotels — Photographs of accessible rooms/bathrooms may be provided, but typically only when the facilities at a particular hotel are ADA compliant. All accessible rooms/suites are available for booking online and listed with information on bed type and bathing fixture (bathtub or roll-in shower).
- Hyatt Hotels — Standard ADA guest rooms are easily bookable and information on the bed type and bathroom fixtures are provided. Hyatt generally does not list accessible club-level rooms or suites on its website, I assume in an effort to hide significant violations of the ADA’s room dispersion requirements. For certain properties, the website will allow overbooking of ADA room types for top-tier elite members.
- IHG Hotels — Photos of accessible guest rooms are available for many properties, including when major ADA design violations are apparent (particularly with roll-in showers). Information on bed type and bathroom fixtures are provided in the accessible room description.
- Marriott Hotels — Accessible feature options for specific room types are listed on the “Room details” link on the rates page, but this information is not always accurate. Selection of a specific accessible room type is possible by clicking the “Choose Room Features” accordion on the Review Reservation Details page, which is step 1 of 3 in the reservations process.
- Wyndham Hotels — The majority of ADA rooms are listed only as “Accessible,” but they are unlikely to be ADA compliant. You should call the hotel after making a reservation to confirm a room with either a roll-in shower or bathtub.
I have directed a sizable portion of my nights and stays to Marriott Hotels, because I have found their properties to be more accessible (on average) and hotel management to be generally responsive to problems. But, you should be prepared to encounter ADA design violations in many hotels, regardless of which brand you select.
Do accessible suites exist, and can they be booked online?
They do exist! But, not every hotel will have them. Hilton and IHG do an especially good job of communicating ADA suite availability on their websites. Some Marriott and Starwood properties do have them, but you may have to call to inquire about rates and availability. Hyatt is worst when it comes to ADA suite availability, and it is not typically possible to book such suites on the Hyatt website (if they exist at all). Because of a failure to properly disperse ADA rooms across all room types and sizes, most Hyatt hotels do not have accessible suites.
What happens when a hotel cannot honor my accessible room reservation?
If the accessible room you reserved is not available, for whatever reason, the hotel should move you (at their cost) to a nearby property that can provide a room to meet your needs. Accessible room reservations are for exactly what you reserved (bathroom fixtures, bed size and number of beds). You should not accept anything less than what you reserved.
To learn how to protect yourself against ADA violations like the ones mentioned here, read the article on resolving ADA disputes.
Questions about your rights to reserve ADA accessible hotel rooms and the responsibility of hotels to honor ADA reservations? Ask away in the comments below!