Americans with Disabilities Act: One year of compliance

This is part one of a three-part series on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Check back in Fri., March 14, for part two and Mon., March 17, for part three.

The Americans with Disabilities Act's latest regulation revisions have 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 new revisions to the Act have designated these rooms under a new room type, freeing them up for availability for the guests that need them.

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“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 system,” said Minh Vu, partner at Seyfarth Shaw Attorneys, 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 mobility and hearing impaired guests. Visual notifications devices for door bells, strobe light fire alarms and a flashing light for telephone alerts were all available for hearing impaired guests, but were also present in rooms for guests in wheelchairs. Under the ADA standards set in 1991, accessible rooms had a combination of both settings, but the 2010 standards require hotels to have a minimum of 10 percent of their rooms to cater to both these guests. 

“No overlapping is allowed, so hotels have had to create more communication-centric rooms,” Vu said. “A person with a disability is supposed to have the same range of choices in terms of room types. There is a higher expectation that people will have more options. These issues come up during renovations and new builds, though it is easier to design for in new builds.”