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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