The first set of ADA Accessible Design Standards were put in place nearly 30 years ago, and the grace period for hotels to reach ADA compliance is over. Travelers should expect consistency in the design of accessible hotel rooms and bathrooms, regardless of which hotel they select. Unfortunately, many hotels have not adhered to the ADA standards, causing problems for travelers with disabilities.
If and when you encounter an ADA violation that limits or restricts your use of a hotel room, you should not remain silent. Follow these steps to resolve accessibility issues, whether before, during or after your stay.
Before Your Stay: Avoiding Accessibility Issues
Here are three things you can do to prevent an ADA violation at a hotel from ruining your vacation.
- Select a hotel that has been recommended and tested by a friend or family member who understands your accessibility needs.
- Search the internet for reviews and photographs of the accessible room features and hotel services and amenities before booking your stay. Get started by looking through the large directory of wheelchair accessible hotel reviews on this website.
- Call the hotel directly and ask for specific information like bed height, shower design, door width, swimming pool accessibility, etc. Hotels are required to provide this information upon request.
During Your Stay: Dealing with a Hotel's ADA Violation
Travelers with disabilities have a right to expect that their accessible hotel room will be ADA compliant. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. If you encounter an issue that you are not able or willing to tolerate, take these steps to resolve the issue.
- If the accessibility barrier can be removed or resolved through a reasonable accommodation, ask the hotel to do so.
- If the ADA violation relates to the hotel's physical design or construction, ask the hotel to accommodate you in another room that is ADA compliant, either at their hotel or another nearby.
- If you are willing to "make do" with less than full ADA compliance, explain how the hotel can best accommodate you. For example, in a roll-in shower without the required built-in shower seat, are you willing to accept a portable shower chair?
- As a last resort, ask for a refund of your room charges and take the matter up at a later date (see the next section).
After Your Stay: Complaints and Compensation
The ADA is not new, and hotels have been required to observe the law's regulatory and design requirements for decades. As such, there should be penalties imposed on hotels that do not fulfill their responsibility to comply. In an ideal world, the government would handle these matters for us, but oftentimes it is up to us to act. Here are some things you can do after your stay to be made whole and to hold businesses to account for ADA violations.
- The first step should always be to contact the hotel directly. I recommend submitting a complaint through the hotel chain's web contact form. Explain the issues you face, cite the ADA violations you faced, explain their effects on you and request reasonable compensation (refund, hotel rewards points, etc.).
- For major violations, like waiting hours for an accessible shuttle, the hotel giving your ADA room to someone else, a non-compliant shower or bathtub that made it impossible for you to bathe - the compensation provided should be penal. There is no excuse for major ADA violations.
- When speaking with the hotel, ask how they will resolve the ADA violation so that it does not negatively impact future guests with disabilities. It is always important to look out for other members of the disability community.
- File a complaint against the hotel with the U.S. Department of Justice via the website www.ADA.gov. The DOJ could bring legal action against the hotel on your behalf, offer a mediator to resolve your complaints or provide you with resources to aid you in resolving the complaint yourself.
- As a last resort, you may be able to bring a case against the hotel in state or federal court.
Whatever you do, don't let a major ADA violation go uncontested. With more people with disabilities opening their world through travel, it is important to speak out about the discriminatory practices and ADA violations in hotels.
Have you had an issue with access in a hotel or guest room? How did you respond? Were you satisfied with the hotel's resolution? Share your story and let us know in the comments below!