Is Your Hotel or Resort Ready for New ADA Requirements?

On March 15, 2012, new accessibility requirements for public accommodations, including hotels and resorts, will be in effect under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  Is your hotel or resort ready?

Hotel owners and operators will be required to identify accessible features in guest rooms (such as guest room door widths and availability of roll-in showers) and other hotel amenities in adequate detail so that an individual with a disability can make an independent assessment whether the hotel meets his or her accessibility needs.  To comply with this requirement, hotel owners and operators should coordinate with third parties providing reservation services to make sure that the required information is readily available.

In addition, the ADA requires improvements to the following new and existing facilities:

  • Swimming pools, wading pools, and spas
  • saunas and steam rooms
  • exercise machines and equipment
  • play areas
  • fishing piers and platforms
  • recreational boating facilities
  • golf facilities
  • residential facilities and dwelling units

The scope of required changes to existing facilities depends on a variety of factors. The factors include the type of facility and the scope of any alterations to an existing facility, among other things.

The pool requirement has been given the most significant attention among hotel owners and operators. Title III of the ADA requires that places of public accommodation (such as hotels, resorts, swim clubs, and sites of events open to the public) remove physical barriers in existing pools to the extent it is readily achievable to do so (i.e., easily accomplished and able to be carried out without much difficultly or expense). 

The Department of Justice acknowledges that determining what is readily achievable will vary from business to business and sometimes year to year.  Changing economic conditions can be taken into consideration in determining what is readibly achieveable. 

For an existing pool, “removing barriers” may involve installation of a fixed pool lift with independent operation by the user or other accessible means of entry that complies with the new standards to the extent it is “readily achieveable” to do so.  If installation of a fixed lift is not readily achieveable, the public accommodation may then consider alternatives such as use of a portable pool lift that complies with the new standards. When selecting the equipment, the public accommodation should factor in the staff and financial resources needed to keep the pool equipment available and in working condition at poolside.  To determine which pools must be made accessible, the Department of Justice says the public accommodation should consider the following factors:

(1) The nature and cost of the action;

(2) Overall resources of the site or sites involved;

(3) The geographic separateness and relationship of the site(s) to any parent corporation or entity;

(4) The overall resources of any parent corporation or entity, if applicable; and

(5) The type of operation or operations of any parent corporation or entity.

All newly constructed or altered pools must comply with the new standards.  An alteration is a physical change to a swimming pool which affects or could affect the usability of the pool.  Changes to mechanical and electrical systems are not alterations. 

Owners and operators of hotels and resorts should consult counsel to determine how to comply with the new ADA requirements.

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