March 15, 2012 is not only the date the 2010 ADA Standards for new construction and alterations go into effect, it is also the date that new obligations on owners and operators of hotels, motels and other places of lodging such as timeshares and vacation communities concerning reservation policies and practices go into effect.

In addition to the new reservation requirements, places of lodging also need to look at their facilities that do not come under the “safe harbor” concept, such as pools, exercise equipment, and other recreation facilities.

The changes to reservation policies whether made by telephone, in-person, or through a third party include:

  • Ensure that individuals with disabilities can make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need an accessible room;
  • Identify and describe accessible features of the place of lodging and guest rooms offered through its reservation system in enough detail to allow an individual with disabilities to assess whether the hotel meets his needs;
  • Ensure that the accessible guest rooms are held for use by individuals with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented;
  • Reserve, upon request, accessible guest rooms or specific types of guest rooms and ensure that the reserved rooms are blocked and removed from the reservation system;
  • Guarantee that a specific accessible guest room, once reserved, is held for the reserving party.

These new reservation requirements require that staff is properly trained. For example, the reservation staff must be able to identify the features in the accessible rooms and describe them in detail so individuals with disabilities can reserve the room they need (i.e. a room with a roll-in shower rather than with a bathtub).

Features that should be included in the description of the accessible room include;

  • Type of room (suite, deluxe king, etc.);
  • Number and size of the beds;
  • Communication features;
  • Type of bathing facility (bathtub, transfer shower, or roll-in shower).

Many features, such as pools (see article above), now have new requirements under the 2010 ADA Standards and the facility must develop a barrier removal plan to ensure compliance with the new regulations. Also, some of the requirements have changed from the original 1991 ADA Accessibility Guidelines, including requirements for balconies, terraces, and patios; maneuvering clearance at beds; and vanity counter top space in bathrooms.

The 2010 ADA Standards provide that accessible hotel rooms have clear floor space on both sides of a bed (unless there are two beds next to each other then the clear floor space is provided between the two beds) that comply with Section 305 and be positioned for a parallel approach. Section 305.3 requires clear floor space for a parallel approach to be a minimum of 30 inches by 48 inches. This is a change from the 1991 standards which required 36 inches on both sides of the bed. In addition, the 2010 Standards adds a requirement that if vanity counter space is provided in the non-accessible guest bathrooms a comparable vanity counter space both size and proximity must be provided in the accessible guest room bathroom. Finally, the number of guest rooms that provide accessible communication features has increased.

Accessibility Services can assist places of lodging in assessing their facility, identifying barriers that must be removed, and training of staff so that the facility and its staff comply with the requirements in the 2010 ADA Standards. If you have any questions contact Kleo King at 718-803-3782, Extension 7501 or kking@accessibility-services.com.