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Summary of the Department’s Proposal for Hotel Reservations:

The Department proposes to amend the ADA Title III regulations to add requirements for hotels to: (1) modify their policies, practices, or procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities can make reservations, including reservations made by telephone, in-person, or through a third party, for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms, (2) to identify and describe accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms offered through the reservations service, and (3) guarantee that an accessible guest room reserved through the reservations service will be held for the reserving customer during the reservation period to the same extent that it guarantees reservations made by others.

The Department also seeks input as to whether it should adopt a requirement that places of lodging hold a certain number of accessible guest rooms open until all other rooms are rented to ensure the availability of accessible guest rooms.

Summary of Proposed Comments:

We strongly support the proposed requirements for places of lodging and third- party reservation services to modify their policies, practices, or procedures, to identify and describe accessible features, and to guarantee the reservations for accessible rooms. We also strongly support the Department’s adoption of a requirement to hold accessible rooms open until all other rooms are rented to ensure the availability of accessible guest rooms.

We strongly support these requirements because individuals with disabilities have continued to face substantial barriers created by the lack of available information, and the provision of incorrect information, by places of lodging about their accessible rooms and features, difficulty in reserving accessible guest rooms, and the failure to guarantee appropriate accessible rooms. These barriers are even more substantial when dealing with third-party reservation services. The record is clear that these requirements are achievable and there is no reason that places of lodging and third-party reservation services cannot comply with these requirements. These requirements will ensure that people with disabilities truly have equal access to places of lodging in the United States.

DOJ Questions about Hotel Reservations:

Question 17: What are the current practices of hotels and third party reservations services with respect to ‘‘guaranteed’’ hotel reservations? What are the practical effects of requiring a public accommodation to guarantee accessible guest rooms to the same extent that it guarantees other rooms?

Question 18: What are the current practices of hotels and third-party reservations services with respect to (1) holding accessible rooms for individuals with disabilities and (2) releasing accessible rooms to individuals without disabilities? What factors are considered in making these determinations? Should public accommodations be required to hold one or more accessible rooms until all other rooms are rented, so that the accessible rooms would be the last rooms rented?

Question 19: Should a public accommodation that does not itself own, lease (or lease to), or operate a place of lodging but nevertheless provides reservations services, including reservations for places of lodging, be subject to the requirements of proposed §36.302(e)(2) and (e)(3)?

Department’s Proposed Rulemaking:

ADA Title III

§36.302 Modifications in policies, practices, or procedures

* * * *

(e) Hotel reservations. A public accommodation that owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of lodging shall:

(1) Modify its policies, practices, or procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities can make reservations, including reservations made by telephone, in-person, or through a third party, for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms;

(2) Identify and describe accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms offered through the reservations service; and

(3) Guarantee that an accessible guest room reserved through the reservations service will be held for the reserving customer during the reservation period to the same extent that it guarantees reservations made by others.

Comments:

We strongly support the proposed requirements for places of lodging and third-party reservation services to modify their policies, practices, or procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to make reservations in the same manner as individuals without disabilities. We also strongly support the proposal to require places of lodging and third party reservation services to ensure that they identify and describe the accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms through their reservations services and to guarantee that accessible guest rooms will be held to the same extent that it guarantees reservations made by others.

While physical accessibility at many places of lodging has improved, individuals with disabilities have continued to face substantial barriers created by the lack of available information, and the provision of incorrect information, by places of lodging about their accessible rooms and features, difficulty in reserving accessible guest rooms, and the failure to guarantee appropriate accessible rooms. The lack of information and the lack of awareness by many staff at places of lodging regarding specific accessibility features of accessible guest rooms, often lead to individuals with disabilities not being provided with appropriate accessible accommodations. These are significant problems which have resulted in very consistent, widespread anecdotal reports, even from disability rights conferences, in which a person requests a fully accessible room or one with a roll-in shower, but when they arrive, it turns out that the room they have is not fully accessible or does not have a roll-in shower.

Moreover, regarding third-party reservation services, as of today, these services do not provide any way to request accessible rooms, nor do they provide information about accessibility features. We believe that the requirements proposed by the Department will go a long way towards correcting these deficiencies. It is clear that the proposed requirements are very reasonable and not onerous, because there are hotels in every lodging category (large and small; individual and part of a chain) that are already doing today what the Department proposes.

The lodging industry, and in particular, third-party reservation services, may strenuously object to the new requirements. Yet we strongly urge the Department to impose them. When ADA enforcement began in the early 1990s, hotels themselves also strenuously objected to any requirement to alter reservation services. Yet a record of Departmental enforcement has shown that such policy modifications have been quite achievable. There is nothing inherently more difficult with respect to the third-party services. Without such a requirement, there is truly no equal access to lodging for people with disabilities in the United States.

With regard to Department Question 18, we strongly support the Department’s adoption of a requirement for places of lodging to hold a certain number of accessible guest rooms until all other rooms are rented to ensure the availability of accessible guest rooms. Without such a provision, there is no guarantee of equal access to lodging, and this requirement is not burdensome.

As indicated above, with respect to Question 19, we strongly support the application of proposed §36.302(e)(2) and (e)(3) to public accommodations that do not own, lease (or lease to), or operate places of lodging but provide reservations services for places of lodging.  Given the prevalence of such services, the proposed requirements would lose a great deal of effectiveness if not applied to these types of public accommodations. 

 

 

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