As part of the ADA, hotel reservation systems have been overhauled to help reserve accessible rooms for the guests who need them.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has been in effect for a full year, and hotels are now expected to fully comply with the updated standards established in 2010.
Several minor changes to hotel operations have gone into effect as a result of the Act, with one of the first changes coming to hotel reservation systems.
According to Kevin Buchanan, GM of the Hilton Garden Inn Providence, Warwick, R.I., guest reservations made through a third party before the ADA went into effect would list guests’ preference for accessible rooms as a request as opposed to a necessity. The Act has designated these rooms under a new room type, freeing them up for availability for the guests that need them.
“If you try to make a reservation for an accessible room now, the reservation system will warn you that you are going to book such a room and give you a chance to change your decision based on your needs,” Buchanan said. “This helps us save those rooms for last and for the guests that need them.”
“The hotel industry worked hard to revise its reservation systems,” said Minh Vu, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLC and an expert on the ADA changes. “Mistakes will still happen due to human error, but the systems have been updated at great expense to comply.”
Another aspect of room availability is the separation of rooms for guests with mobility versus hearing disabilities. The 1991 Standards required visual notification devices for door bells, strobe light fire alarms and a flashing light for telephone alerts for guests with hearing disabilities were required in rooms that also had features for guests with mobility disabilities. The 2010 Standards only allow 10 percent of mobility accessible rooms to also have features for people with hearing disabilities so now the features for guests with hearing disabilities must be installed in different rooms.
“No overlapping is allowed, so hotels have had to create more communications-accessible rooms,” Vu said. In addition, “a person with a disability is supposed to have a comparable range of choices in terms of room types. The 2010 Standards require more options. These issues come up during renovations and new construction.”
A checklist for accessibility design options
* Automatically opening doors to allow easy entrances for mobility impaired guests
* Roll-in showers
* A low-sitting toilet for ease of access
* Attempting to save accessible rooms for last, and warning guests before they book such rooms
* Training employees in the use of hearing impaired equipment and pool lift operation
* Frequent inspection of accessible rooms in between housekeeping visits
* Ensuring that basic things are within reach on the bathroom vanity, in the guestroom closet and on any guestroom desks or fixtures
Source: Seyfarth Shaw LLC
Hilton Garden Inn, Sky Hospitality