Hotel Accessibility and Accommodations for People with Disabilities

By Peniston, Lorraine C. | Parks & Recreation, December 1996 | Go to article overview

Hotel Accessibility and Accommodations for People with Disabilities


Peniston, Lorraine C., Parks & Recreation


The hotel/motel business, otherwise known as the lodging industry, is steadily increasing revenue, room space and room occupation annually. The Lodging industry Profile reported $66 billion in sales, 34 million rooms and 65.2% average occupancy rate for 1994. Between 1993 and 1994, 100,000 rooms were added, $4.3 billion revenue increase was generated and occupancy rate rose by 1.6%. (AHMA. 1995). It appears for one of many reasons (i.e., leisure vacations, attending conference, business travel, family visits or job/residence moves), more people are expected to use some form of lodging in the future. At the present time no published statistics depict how many of the 48 million people in the United States with disabilities participated in contributing to the billions of dollars the lodging industry made in the previous years (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992. Since the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in July of 1990, people with disabilities have been more visible in public due to its nondiscriminatory, total access requirements. This population has now been recognizably vital to the service economy, especially the travel and tourism industry. It is for those reasons that the lodging industry is very much concerned with developing and maintaining comfortable room accommodations, delivering quality service and displaying hospitality to the satisfaction of all its guests.

The major issue in the literature concerning ADA and hotel accessibility and accommodation is "whether hotel owners or operators understand the ADA, what `readily achievable, means in the law, and how far does a company or property have to go to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act?"

Americans with

Disabilities Act Effect

on the Lodging

industry

Hoteliers are affected by the ADA in two ways: 1)Title I, hiring practices: "which prohibits discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability in job application procedures, hiring, advancing, contracting, compensating and discharging employees, and in other terms, conditions and privileges of employment" (Rovner, 1990, p.2437). 2) Title III of the law, which deals with hotels and motels as public accommodations, generally forbids discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases or operates a place of public accommodation" (Rovner, 1990, p.2440). This section of the law applies to three areas in lodging: exiting hotels, changes to remove architectural and communication barriers "where readily achievable" must be completed by January 26, 1992; hotels that undergo alternations after January 26, 1992,the altered area must meet ADA requirements; and construction of new hotels, if completed application for a final building permit is filed and certified to be completed after January 26, 1992 and first certificate of occupancy for the facility is after January 26, 1993 (Troy, 1992, p.55).

A modification is "readily achievable" if a property can afford to make the change. If a hotel cannot afford to retrofit its facilities, then it must make some other effort to comply with the law (Troy, 1994).

Resources on

Compliance with the

ADA

Because the law specifically does not state accessibility guidelines (i.e., building regulations, equipment, appropriate communication devices, hiring procedures, and service delivery recommendation) hotel owners or operators had to rely on other sources in complying with ADA. In 1991, the U.S. Architectural & Transportation Barriers Compliance Board published ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities. Many of these guidelines are based on the American National Standard Institute's (ANSI) document A117.1 - 1980. The Compliance Board published a second updated edition in September 1994. …

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