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Can hotels charge more for handicap accessible rooms, and do they have to make these rooms available to handicapped individuals?
January 16, 2009 10:50 PM   Subscribe

Can hotels charge more for handicap accessible rooms, and do they have to make these rooms available to handicapped individuals?

I have a hotel reservation made for my brother-in-law for Saturday night. He is in a wheel chair and requires a room that he can move around in and shower in. I just spoke to the hotel and they told me that our reservation (paid in advance - non refundable) is for a standard room and the only rooms with wheelchair accessible bathrooms are the deluxe king rooms (which cost a bit more). Additionally, I was informed that these rooms are already occupied by guests.

My questions are:

1) Can hotel (specifically in California) legally require a handicapped individual to pay for a more expensive room in order to get an accessible bathroom? This seem very odd to me.

2) Can hotels give out the handicap accessible rooms to anyone, even if they have no disability, while leaving those with a disability out of luck and stuck with a room that can not accommodate their needs? I can understand if the hotel is booked completely full, but dont understand how they can give the accessible rooms out first and hang those who actually need them out to dry.

Please help me understand what is a legal requirement/obligation versus optional policy.

Thanks
posted by sirhensley to Law & Government (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Regarding your second question - yes, the hotel can rent those room to no disabled people. I've stayed in disabled rooms many times, usually when the hotel was full.

Regarding your first question, does the smaller room have adequate space that it could be made accessible? Rooms for disabled people are generally a bit larger than the lowest cost room, particularly the bathroom.
posted by 26.2 at 11:12 PM on January 16, 2009


non-disabled (or more correctly able bodied)
posted by 26.2 at 11:12 PM on January 16, 2009


State of California's Disability Access Info: ADA Title III ... covers businesses ... that are public accommodations.... Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels ...

Public accommodations must comply with basic non-discrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment

If you think the hotel is in the wrong, the CA Dept of Fair Employment and Housing will handle your complaint. They may also be able to advise you and the hotel on any requirements regarding accessibility and fair treatment.
posted by zippy at 11:15 PM on January 16, 2009


First off, it would be helpful to know if this is a chain hotel (Holiday Inn, Hampton, etc) or an independent hotel. Because, this will make a difference in how you handle this.
In hotels, handicapped rooms are referred to as ADA rooms, because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's a national law that has very strict requirements when it comes to hotel rooms.
You say the hotel says you originally reserved a standard room. Is this the case? You say it was prepaid in advance, that's generally the case with online sites such as travelocity or orbitz. Did you use an online site?
To answer your questions:
1) Most hotel chains have a standing policy of charging the same for a handicapped room as they would for a corresponding standard room. (IE: a handicapped king room should be the same price as a standard king room.) But, this may not be the case for an independent hotel. Hotel chains are very adamant about making sure their hotels are compliant with ADA codes, and smaller, independent hotels often aren't.
2) Yes, people can rent a handicapped room even if they aren't handicapped. These are usually rented very last, for several reasons. But, there are often policies in place about this. Some hotels have a standing rule that if somebody genuinely needs the ADA room, then they will have to ask the people already in the room to move. I have personally asked people to do that before, and usually compensated them by upgrading them to a suite.
Anyway, more info (such as the hotel chain, and your method of booking the room) will be helpful in deciding what to do next.
posted by ComeUndone at 11:43 PM on January 16, 2009


Regarding your first question, does the smaller room have adequate space that it could be made accessible? Rooms for disabled people are generally a bit larger than the lowest cost room, particularly the bathroom.

Accessibility involves a lot more than just maneuvering clearances for wheelchairs. Even if there's enough room to accommodate a 60" turning radius, the sink still has to have the correct clearance and access requirements, and the toilet and tub/shower need grab bars. The shower may need a seat. And of course, if this were a two-story motel, the room obviously couldn't be on the second story unless there was an elevator.
posted by LionIndex at 11:43 PM on January 16, 2009


LionIndex - I wasn't implying those were the only requirements. I was addressing the higher cost question. If the standard room cannot be made accessible (for instance the bathroom is too small), but the king room can be that would explain the higher rate.
posted by 26.2 at 12:22 AM on January 17, 2009


A better question is, did you specify the need for a handicap-accessible room when reserving them? If not, I don't think its unreasonable for them to not have any available. How would they know they needed to not reserve those king suites otherwise?
posted by internet!Hannah at 2:50 AM on January 17, 2009


Ten years ago I was working in a place with a single specially-designed wheelchair-accessible suite (accessible washroom, extra-wide doors, main floor -- so no elevators). The rate was the same as any other room and was of course rented to able-bodied folks as well, when not booked for a guest using a wheelchair. The room was, as I recall, not booked out in advance save by those who made a reservation and requested an accessible room; rather, at 6:00 pm or 8:00 pm or something, when it became evident that no wheelchair-bound guest might be coming through the front door, it was then made available for anyone who needed it. It also thus served as a useful safety valve for unforeseen emergencies -- a guest has inadvertently booked for the wrong date and has turned up a month earlier than expected or something.

I am sure the "same rate" part of all this was covered by legislation, but apart from that it was all just policy.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:13 AM on January 17, 2009


Technically they aren't charging more for a handicapped accessible room, they are charging more for a larger room. The room currently booked is smaller and hotels always charge more for a larger room. It just happens that the larger room is the handicapped accessible one.
posted by DJWeezy at 10:44 AM on January 17, 2009


From the DOJ's Technical Assistance Manual, 1994 Supplement: Also, if the motel's only available accessible rooms were offered at higher rates than the room initially requested, it may be a reasonable modification of policy for the hotel to make the more expensive rooms available at the lower rate. See also the DOJ's Common ADA Problems at Newly Constructed Lodging Facilities.

My ex-partner uses a wheelchair. We stayed in many hotels over the years, and were never charged "extra" for an accessible room or told that we couldn't have it because it was occupied by a nondisabled person.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:07 AM on January 17, 2009


Let me clarify a few things:

1) We just booked the room through hotwire a couple of days ago and they have no way even requesting a handicap accessible room.

2) We called the hotel after the reservation was made and informed them that we would need a room with an accessible bathroom. They told us that the only two rooms they have with accessible bathrooms were already booked with long-term guests (neither of which need the accessibility) and they are not willing to ask if the guest would move for the night.

3) We were informed that even IF the rooms were available they are more expensive rooms and would require us to pay a bit more money.

We are left in a position that we may need to to contact hotwire and request that they refund our money (good luck with that). I just read about a class action suit against hotels.com about this issue, but it seems just as much the fault of the hotel as it is web sites.

Finally, I completely understand if the hotel is full and they fill the handicap accessible rooms last, but this hotel is not completely full, and as I mentioned they gave the rooms to long-term guests - thus providing no option of any handicap guests....just seems a bit wrong.
posted by sirhensley at 11:27 AM on January 17, 2009


Yeah, the on-line sites are not good about letting you reserve accessible rooms -- same with Ticket master or whatever it's called.

If you MeMail me the details I can perhaps connect you with someone who can call the hotel and make them fix it.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 3:58 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're reserving a handicapped room, you'd better talk IN PERSON. Multiple times.

I don't know about the charging extra, but my dad was handicapped and I think we actually landed a handicapped room ONCE in the times I traveled with him. Even after requesting a handicapped room, we'd get the "we've got nothing, sorry" treatment all the time once we arrived. And then had to stay in rooms on upper floors and God help you in the toilet.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:08 PM on January 17, 2009


Is the building on the National List of History Places? I work in a hotel like this where we aren't allowed to make any major structural changes and only have one room that doesn't require people to go up the stairs. If this hotel is like mine, they're exempt from a lot of things.
posted by ZaneJ. at 1:09 AM on January 18, 2009


It's entirely possible that the hotel was completely booked when the handicap rooms were assigned to the long term guests. Or the handicap rooms might be the only rooms that were available for the requested duration. No hotel is going to ask those guest to move to a new room for a single night if only because of the increased cleaning costs incurred.

Besides that consideration the long term guests might have requested those rooms for many reasons unrelated to the handicap accessibility of those rooms. Over looking the parking lot/not over looking the parking lot; perceived quietness; distance from the vending machines; ocean view etc. For example travelling business people holding meetings in their room often want ground floor room close to entrances and that is where managers like to put them as it reduces the disturbance to other guests. One of the hotels I've worked for had a minor block of rooms separated from the main hotel by the laundry/meeting rooms informally reserved for these guests.

Also if I was running a hotel my most expensive rooms (suites/double kings/fancy baths/ocean views/etc.) would be the handicap units as it might mean selling those rooms even when my hotel wasn't full. Kind of mercenary but there you go. Looking at the fact sheet ClaudiaCenter linked to reveals only a mandate to provide a range of options. A hotel with 100 units and a dozen different room types could easily accommodate the required five ADA rooms without even coming close to the bottom of their price range. And ADA requirements may be incorporated into larger suites with less effort, especially stuff like roll in showers.

PS: I'm surprised the hotel would communicate the health status of their guests to other guests. Over the phone no less. Shows an amazing lack of discreetness that would make me reconsider staying there.
posted by Mitheral at 5:50 PM on January 18, 2009


According to the DOJ in 1993 opinion letter (emphasis added):

We presume under your scenario that a person with a disability is being offered a non-accessible room because all accessible guestrooms are occupied by persons with disabilities. If that is not the case, the hotel should move nondisabled guests to another room and provide the accessible room to the person with a mobility impairment. This situation can be avoided by reserving the hotel's accessible rooms until all the other rooms are booked, by renting accessible rooms to nondisabled guests for one night only, or by notifying nondisabled persons who rent accessible rooms that they may be asked to move to another room.

Furthermore, an existing hotel that has an insufficient number of accessible rooms, according to the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, Section 9.1.2, is obligated under the ADA to remove architectural barriers to access and make the requisite number of rooms accessible, to the extent it is readily achievable to do so. Please also remember that, in altering guest rooms or when constructing new hotels, a hotel must make a certain number of the guest rooms accessible. For the appropriate numbers of accessible rooms, please refer to Section 9 of the Standards for Accessible Design.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:59 PM on January 18, 2009


DOJ settlement with Courtyard Marriott:

Within 30 days of the effective date of this agreement, Marriott International and Courtyard Management Corporation shall issue to the central reservations office for Courtyard by Marriott hotels and to every Courtyard by Marriott hotel, a memorandum stating that it is the policy of Marriott International and Courtyard Management Corporation:

That no accessible room will be reserved for an individual who does not have a disability, unless all inaccessible rooms have been reserved for the date on which a room is requested and accessible rooms are the only ones available;

That an accessible room of the type requested by a person with a disability shall be reserved for that person, if, at the time a reservation is made, an accessible room is available for the date(s) on which it is being requested;

That if, at the time the reservation is placed, an accessible room is available on the date(s) for which it is requested, the individual making the request will receive a confirmation number which will serve as proof that an accessible room has been "reserved" for the date(s) in question;

That, at an individual customer's request, written confirmation that an accessible room has been "reserved" will be provided in addition to the confirmation number.

That if the customer has been assigned inadvertently to an inaccessible room, all reasonable and diligent efforts must be made to find an accessible room in the same facility (e.g., by reassigning a non-disabled person who may be located in an accessible room to an inaccessible room in the same facility, assuming one is available);

That if the customer has been assigned inadvertently to an inaccessible room and an accessible room cannot be found in the same facility, the facility will make all reasonable and diligent efforts to locate suitable accommodations elsewhere and will pay any difference between the cost of these accommodations and its own room rates;

That the same efforts will be made to find suitable lodging at another facility for a customer with a disability whose reservation of an accessible room cannot be honored (despite the efforts described in paragraph 33) because a customer has held over in an accessible room past his or her reservation date, as are made for non-disabled customers similarly situated; and

That reasonable efforts, including requesting non-disabled persons occupying accessible rooms to move to available inaccessible rooms, will be made to assign a customer with a disability who does not have a reservation to an accessible room.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:03 PM on January 18, 2009


No hotel is going to ask those guest to move to a new room for a single night if only because of the increased cleaning costs incurred.

If there are vacancies (hotel not fully booked), and a nondisabled person using an accessible room, then the hotel has screwed up, and (according to DOJ) is supposed to ask the nondisabled person to more.

Also if I was running a hotel my most expensive rooms (suites/double kings/fancy baths/ocean views/etc.) would be the handicap units as it might mean selling those rooms even when my hotel wasn't full.

If you made that choice then you would have to make those rooms available to disabled persons at the standard rate, not at the fancy rate, and move your rich people when disabled people need the room. So it's not actually a good choice.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:07 PM on January 18, 2009


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