ADA Compliance and the Impact of Hotel Renovations

By Christine Samsel Attorney, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck | September 23, 2018

Co-authored by Jonathan Sandler & Allison L. Gambill, Shareholders, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

For the hospitality industry, navigating the maze of complex requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") can prove to be a daunting task. The risk of being sued for noncompliance has never been higher. Disabled individuals have been pursuing hospitality companies in court for years, asserting a variety of claims related to physical accessibility issues, such as pool lifts, parking lot configurations and guest room features. (For a discussion of the recent trend of lawsuits focusing on website accessibility and reservation policies for accessible rooms, see our prior article, Hospitality Industry Particularly Susceptible to ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits.

Often, the accessibility issue stems from a misunderstanding on the part of the lodging facility as to the applicable ADA standards; it is sometimes difficult to determine when alterations and renovations made to a facility-or portion of a facility-trigger application of updated ADA standards. Making it more difficult, different aspects of a facility may be subject to different versions of ADA Accessibility Standards.

This article provides guidance on how to determine which Title III ADA standards apply to which portions of the facility, including how renovations may impact compliance requirements. This article addresses federal law; states (such as California) may impose additional accessibility requirements.

Determining Which ADA Standards Apply to Your Facility

In 1991, the Department of Justice published the ADA Title III regulations, which included the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (the "1991 Standards"). The 1991 Standards outline detailed requirements to ensure that places of public accommodation, including hotels, motels, inns and other lodging facilities, are accessible to individuals with disabilities. The Department of Justice published revised regulations and adopted updated accessibility standards with the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (the "2010 Standards"), permitting the 1991 Standards to be applied until March 14, 2012.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.