By Liz Hartsel
Many hotels and motels do not realize that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires hotels to maintain a booking and reservations system that is accessible to people with disabilities. This requirement also extends to third-party booking companies the hotels may use, such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Hotels.com. Under the ADA, the hotels must:
1. Ensure that individuals with disabilities can reserve accessible guest rooms in the same manner as other guests;
2. Adequately describe the accessible features in enough detail to permit individuals with disabilities to assess whether the room meets their needs;
3. Ensure that the accessible guest rooms are held for use by individuals with disabilities until all other guest rooms have been booked; and
5. Guarantee that the reserved accessible guest room is held for the reserving customer.
See 28 CRF Part 36.
Lawsuits regarding this issue have been increasing since the beginning of 2018. For example, one plaintiff alone has initiated 28 separate lawsuits against hotels in the District of Colorado since July 2020, claiming that the hotels were not compliant with the ADA because either their online booking website or their third-party booking website did not provide enough information about accessibility at the hotels.
A federal court in California held that there may be a difference in the amount of detail a hotel must provide on its website depending on whether the hotel was built in compliance with the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. In that case, the court found that “for hotels that were built in compliance with the 1991 Standards, it may be sufficient to specify that the hotel is accessible and, for each accessible room, to describe the general type of room (e.g., deluxe executive suite), the size and number of beds (e.g., two queen beds), the type of accessible bathing facility (e.g., roll-in shower), and communications features available in the room (e.g., alarms and visual notification devices).” Barnes v. Marriott Hotel Servs., Inc., No. 15-CV-01409-HRL, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22588, 2017 WL 635474 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 16, 2017). Other courts tend to agree “that websites need not include all potentially relevant accessibility information[.]” Strojnik v. Orangewood LLC, No. CV 19-00946 DSF (JCx), 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11743, at *21 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 22, 2020).
The Department of Justice, however, has noted that older hotels with limited accessibility features must provide at a minimum:
[I]nformation about accessible entrances to the hotel, the path of travel to guest check-in and other essential services, and the accessible route to the accessible room or rooms. In addition to the room information described above, these hotels should provide information about important features that do not comply with the 1991 Standards.
Hotel owners should review their websites—and those of the third parties they engage—to ensure that their reservation system complies with the ADA.
Fortis Law Partners has expertise in helping clients make their websites compliant with the ADA. Please contact Liz Hartsel if you have been served with a demand letter, or if you have any questions about ADA compliance.