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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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.