A random review of twelve hotels by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Connecticut, found that six hotels they surveyed had violations under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Previously, three of the six hotels reached a settlement agreement with the DOJ. Now, the DOJ has announced that two additional hotels have reached an agreement with the Department of Justice. A statement released by the DOJ about the case read in part:
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that two New Haven Hotels, the Omni Hotel at Yale and Village Suites (formerly Premiere Hotel and Suites), have entered into settlement agreements with the U.S. Attorney’s Office as a result of an ongoing review to determine if certain New Haven-area hotels are being operated in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Under federal law, private entities that own or operate “places of public accommodation,” which includes hotels, are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability. The ADA authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate complaints and to undertake periodic reviews to determine compliance by covered entities. The Justice Department is also authorized to commence a civil lawsuit in federal court in any case that involves a pattern or practice of discrimination or that raises issues of general public importance, and to seek injunctive relief, monetary damages, and civil penalties.
As part of a compliance review survey, 12 randomly-selected New Haven area hotels were asked to complete and return a survey form. Onsite inspections to confirm survey responses were then conducted and each hotel was reviewed for its compliance with federal law. Six of the surveyed hotels were found to have ADA violations. The government has been working with the owners and operators of each hotel found in violation in an effort to secure voluntary compliance. Previously, three of the six hotels found in violation, the La Quinta Inn and Suites, Courtyard Marriott and New Haven Hotel, entered into settlement agreements with the government. The government continues to work with the remaining hotel to secure a voluntary compliance agreement and address existing ADA violations.
Kristi Avalos, an expert in access related issues and president/CEO of the McKinney, Texas consulting company,Accessology, said that hotels are an important part of ensuring that people with disabilities can access good jobs and can freely travel. “Hotels are part of the good life. Traveling, whether for business or pleasure, has become second nature. I personally stay in a hotel at least once almost every week. Compliant hotels mean people with disabilities can have better jobs. They can break the glass ceiling. They can achieve the American dream, and then go on vacation!” she stated.
Accessology has been warning that the Department of Justice is not only beefing up reviews of private entities under the ADA, but also the public sector. A search of the Project Civil Access (PCA) website reveals that the Department of Justice has increased its litigation over the past few years substantially against municipalities known as Title II entities. Settlements reached by the DOJ with the various entities have increased 50% since 2012 and 36% since 2013 and range from access to buildings, online websites and technology, public transportation, as well as employee related issues among many other areas.
(NOTE: If you would like assistance reviewing your compliance under the ADA, or need consultation on accessibility related issues, contact Accessology at 972-434-0068 or visit the website here http://accessology.com/ )