New Disability Access Rules for Hotel Recreational Facilities

By Kathleen Pohlid Founder & Managing Member, Pohlid, PLLC | January 16, 2011

Co-authored by Soy Williams, AIA, Soy Williams Consulting

Recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations require many hotels and resorts to make significant changes to their recreational facilities by 2012. The new ADA rules include specifications for recreational boating areas, exercise machines, golf facilities, play areas, swimming pools, saunas, steam rooms, and court sports facilities. Legal compliance is not the only reason to take note of these new rules. Since one out of every ten persons today has a disability, these accommodations make business sense, providing an opportunity to increase sales and services by expanding the hospitality market to travelers with disabilities and their companions.

Disability access to recreational facilities at hotels and resorts is becoming increasingly important. Recent changes to the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act add supplemental requirements for recreational elements including boating areas, exercise machines, golf facilities, play areas, swimming pools, wading pools and spas, saunas, steam rooms, tennis and other court sports facilities. With U.S. Census reports that 12% of Americans have a disability, this poses a significant potential demand for access.

Although the new regulatory requirements present legal compliance obligations to establishments in the hospitality industry, these changes also provide opportunities to broaden the market base. The Census reports that over 40% of adults 65 and older identify themselves as having a disability and projects that the number of people 65 years and older will more than double from an estimated 35 million in 2000 to 71.5 million by 2030. These trends likely translate into a growing demand for disability accommodation within the hospitality industry.

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The ADA, enacted in 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and their companions. Title III of the ADA requires places of public accommodation and commercial facilities to be designed, constructed, and altered in compliance with ADA rules and for architectural barriers in existing facilities to be removed when it is readily achievable to do so. The 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design set forth the specifics for such accommodation requirements. On July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder issued amended ADA regulations, including among other changes, supplemental requirements for recreational elements which were not addressed or scoped within the 1991 standards. The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which have been approved and become effective on March 15, 2011, require compliance by all Title II (Public Entities) and Title III (Public Accommodations and Commercial Entities) by March 15, 2012.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.