ADA Compliancy Toward Hotel Parking

By Kathleen Pohlid Founder & Managing Member, Pohlid, PLLC | October 02, 2011

Parking lots reveal much about the attention and emphasis an establishment gives to compliance with the accommodation requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since parking areas are highly visible to customers, potential guests, governmental authorities, and are under the scrutiny of advocacy groups, it makes sense for hotel establishments to take proactive measures to ensure for ADA compliance.
Additionally, the Department of Justice, which enforces compliance of the ADA, has set accessibility of parking spaces as a first priority for facilities in barrier removal to accommodation. The recent amendments to the ADA regulations, together with the current options of compliance with the 1991 Standards for Accessible Design (1991 Standards) or the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards), necessitate an audit and review of parking to identify issues and the standards which are to apply to the facility.

In general, the ADA accommodation requirements apply to most inns, hotels, and places of lodging as places of public accommodation. Under the ADA, places of public accommodation must be "readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities." See 42 U.S.C. § 12183(a)(1). The Attorney General of the United States has promulgated revised regulations, the 1991 Standards, and the 2010 Standards which are available via the DOJ website at www.ada.gov. Both the 1991 and 2010 Standards include very detailed ADA accommodation specifications for parking. Although the scope of this article addresses general requirements under the ADA, remember that state and local requirements may also apply.

The ADA accommodation requirements recognize an exception for structural impracticability. However, the burden is upon the establishment to demonstrate that it is structurally impracticable to meet the requirements. DOJ regulations recognize such instances in “rare circumstances when the unique characteristics of terrain prevent the incorporation of accessibility features.” In such cases where compliance is structurally impracticable for a facility, portions thereof are requirement to “be made accessible to the extent that it is not structurally impracticable.”

The requirement to make places of accommodation “readily accessible” includes removal of architectural barriers when it is "readily achievable" to do so. This standard applies to parking lots in addition to other elements within a facility. Readily achievable means "easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense." In most cases, this means facilities will be required to comply with the applicable standards for design.

Until March 15, 2012, places of public accommodation (including hotel establishments) have two options for compliance with the ADA standards for design: the 1991 Standards for Accessible Design or the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design. The option selected must apply to the entire facility. Therefore, if a hotel facility opts to comply with the 1991 Standards, it cannot choose to have its parking lot comply only with the 1991 Standards and its guest rooms compliant with the 2010 Standards.

Effective March 15, 2012, the 2010 Standards will apply for barrier removal, new construction and renovation. Therefore, if a hotel complies with the 1991 Standards, it may continue to base compliance upon the 1991 Standards after March 15, 2012 until such time as elements that were in compliance with the 1991 Standards are renovated or altered. After March 15, 2012, once the hotel makes alterations to those elements, the safe harbor no longer applies. For example, if a hotel repaves and re-stripes its parking lot, it will have to comply with the 2010 Standards.

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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.