ADA Awareness

hihotels has partnered with AAHOA to bring you an informational series on ADA Lawsuits and best practices for compliance with ADA requirements.

The ABCs of Frivolous ADA Lawsuits

This article provides general business information and is not intended to replace legal advice on your specific situation. It is strongly recommended that you consult an attorney and obtain professional, business and legal advice that is appropriate to your particular situation.

 

In the last few years, a string of lawsuits have been filed across the nation alleging a failure to maintain an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant hotel. These points below will help you understand the basics of such lawsuits. This is the first of a three-part series to help you better understand the implications of the ADA and public accommodation requirements.

 

  • A is for ADA

Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations to provide goods and services to people with disabilities on an equal basis with the rest of the general public. The standards require that architectural and communication barriers that are structural must be removed in public areas of existing facilities when their removal is readily achievable. Additionally, the standards, as interpreted, require website accessibility for any online booking and communication. This Act applies to hotels and restaurants.

 

  • B is for Barriers

Common issues with barriers alleged in lawsuits are two-fold: (1) physical, structural barriers (e.g., ramps, counter heights, and width of aisles), as well as (2) online communications in the form of both text and website accessibility (e.g., compatibility of a website with a screen reader).

 

  • C is for Compliance

Compliance with the ADA requires meeting both physical accessibility standards and website accessibility standards. Keep in mind that each state may have its own additional standards regarding accessibility. In addition to the ADA, you are also responsible to maintain compliance with all regulations and standards required by your state. Furthermore, when there is a conflict in the regulations, you must implement the more stringent requirement that provides greater access for individuals with disabilities.

 

  • D is for Drive-By-Lawsuits

Frivolous lawsuits filed by plaintiffs and their attorneys have an assortment of claims, including physical barriers and website accessibility issues. These types of lawsuits are sometimes referred to as “drive-by-lawsuits.” Many courts have already noted, a guest is not required to stay at the property in order to file a complaint—he or she is only required to attempt to stay at the hotel property.

 

  • E is for Expensive

These frivolous lawsuits are incredibly expensive. While having an ADA-compliant property may not guarantee protection against being subjected to a lawsuit, it is the best protection and may be far less expensive than defending a lawsuit or settling a claim. Remember, just because you have received one claim does not mean you will not receive others.

 

In next week’s article we’ll discuss how to comply with the ADA and be proactive about protecting your business.

 

If you find this article helpful, join AAHOA and become a part of the nation's largest hotel owners association. AAHOA Members enjoy access to industry-leading material, exclusive webinars on a variety of topics such as the ADA, and personalized guidance on areas of their business. Visit www.aahoa.com to learn more.

 

 

Sheetul Rayeed is the Staff Attorney at AAHOA and helps AAHOA Members navigate through franchise and independent hotel ownership issues and business-related inquiries.

Compliance with the ADA in Four Steps

This article provides general business information and is not intended to replace legal advice on your specific situation. It is strongly recommended that you consult an attorney and obtain professional, business and legal advice that is appropriate to your particular situation.

 

As we ring in the new year, there are a few quick and easy steps you can take to ensure your property is in compliance with the ADA. These four steps will help you be successful in running your business and may be useful in also avoiding costly settlements and lawsuits.

 

1. First, examine your microsites.

Each microsite (e.g., Expedia) on which your property may be listed has special settings you must activate to ensure your property appears in search results with the correct ADA compliant information. This may consist of updating the number of ADA rooms you have available, the room types, and any other necessary information. Providing these on your brand website may not automatically update the many microsites in use for your hotel.

TIP: Simply updating these settings is insufficient. Double-check your settings periodically and search the Internet for any new sites on which your property may be appearing. It's very important to be proactive in your compliance efforts.

 

2. Second, update your property in your franchise portal.

Your Hospitality International Assurance & Marketing Program (AMP) Director will gladly assist you with updating your property’s ADA information. Reach out today to ensure your information on record is accurate. If you make any changes to your property, be sure to notify your AMP Director.

 

3. Third, determine if your property meets the physical requirements mandated by the ADA.

The DOJ website has a checklist for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal (last revised in 1995). The checklist is intended to be used when surveying an existing facility for barriers to accessibility and does not include the newer, 2010 requirements. The Institute for Human Centered Design has a useful, updated ADA Checklist for existing facilities that incorporates the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. You can also reach out to a local contractor to audit your property for compliance. Note, these checklists do not cover all areas of the standards and you should seek counsel and guidance when necessary.

 

4. Finally, seek and understand the insurance coverage for your property.

Speak with your insurance agent to understand what types of claims under the ADA are covered, what your deductible is, and what policies may be available for you to purchase.

 

While having an ADA-compliant property may not guarantee protection against being subjected to a lawsuit, it is the best protection and may be far less expensive than defending a lawsuit or settling a claim. Remember, just because you have received one claim does not mean you will not receive others. In next week’s email, we’ll discuss the ADA requirements and the “grandfather clause” myth.

 

If you find this article helpful, join AAHOA and become a part of the nation's largest hotel owners association. AAHOA Members enjoy access to industry-leading material, exclusive webinars on a variety of topics such as the ADA, and personalized guidance on areas of their business. Visit www.aahoa.com to learn more.

 

 

Sheetul Rayeed is the Staff Attorney at AAHOA and helps AAHOA Members navigate through franchise and independent hotel ownership issues and business-related inquiries.

Uncovering Myths: ADA Compliance and "Grandfathering"

This article provides general business information and is not intended to replace legal advice on your specific situation. It is strongly recommended that you consult an attorney and obtain professional, business and legal advice that is appropriate to your particular situation.

 

The ADA was enacted in 1990 by the Department of Justice, and revised in 2010 to include the adoption of updated ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The Department of Justice has since amended the ADA in 2016 to (1) expand the definition of disability to be broadly construed and applied without extensive analysis, and (2) clarify a public accommodation’s obligation to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services for people with disabilities.

 

Many hoteliers mistakenly believe that their property is “grandfathered” into the original 1990 ADA Standards and therefore the hotel is not required to be compliant with the 2010 and 2016 standards. This is a myth.

 

The ADA does not have a “grandfather” provision but does have a “safe harbor” provision. In the 2010 ADA standards, the safe harbor provisions allow any standards in place at a hotel, that comply with the 1990 ADA standards, to remain in effect even if the 2010 ADA standards altered that provision. This provision is applied on an element-by-element basis.

 

In other words, if your property complies with the 1990 Standards for a specific standard, such as the 54” max lightswitch height, then you do not need to conform with the 2010 ADA standards lowering the height to 48”. However, if you choose to alter elements that were in compliance with the 1990 ADA Standards (e.g., install new light switches), the altered elements must comply with the 2010 ADA Standards.

 

Additionally, the “safe harbor” rules do not apply to new 2010 ADA standards that did not exist in the 1990 ADA Standards. Examples of such include swimming pools, exercise machines, and bowling alleys.

 

In summary, the ADA standards are vast and nuanced. Both sets of standards are still relevant and understanding with what your property is required to comply is important and better to be proactive. If you have trouble understanding the standards, or don’t know if you’re compliant, seek counsel or an independent audit to ensure accuracy.

 

If you find this article helpful, join AAHOA and become a part of the nation's largest hotel owners association. AAHOA Members enjoy access to industry-leading material, exclusive webinars on a variety of topics such as the ADA, and personalized guidance on areas of their business. Visit www.aahoa.com to learn more.

 

 

Sheetul Rayeed is the Staff Attorney at AAHOA and helps AAHOA Members navigate through franchise and independent hotel ownership issues and business-related inquiries.