Rosemary O'Shea and I often work together on helping our hospitality clients understand and resolve issues involving the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") accessibility requirements. While the deadline has already passed for complying with those provisions of the new ADA regulations relating to accommodating service animals and a variety of power-driven mobility devices, another key deadline is quickly approaching. As discussed by Rosemary in an article published in the July 2011 issue of ARDA's Developments Magazine, March 15, 2012 is the deadline for complying with the new ADA accessibility construction standards ("2010 Standards") and reservation requirements. Here is some key information to consider as this deadline approaches.
- The 2010 Standards contain a limited exception for existing facilities that comply with the 1991 Standards. Those elements that comply with the 1991 Standards will be "grandfathered" under the new regulations and will not need to meet the 2010 Standards until such time as renovations or alterations are made. It is, however, still necessary to comply with those portions of the 2010 Standards that address elements not covered by the 1991 Standards (i.e., pools, amusement rides, fishing piers, boating ramps, spas, golf courses, children's play areas, and other amenities). If your facility is not in compliance with either standard, you should take this time to make modifications (to the extent readily achievable) to comply with either the 1991 or 2010 standard before March 15, 2012.
- The 2010 Standards specifically exempt guest rooms in timeshares and condo hotels when such rooms are not owned or substantially controlled by the entity that owns, leases, or operates the overall facility.
- Any new construction or alterations occurring on or after March 15, 2012 must comply with the 2010 Standards. This means that if you are in the design process now, but construction is not expected to start until on or after March 15, 2012, your project must be designed to comply with the 2010 Standards (or the local building code to the extent it is more restrictive than the 2010 Standards). The construction start date is determined by the date of certification of plans for a building permit, or if a jurisdiction does not issue building permits, the "start of physical construction."
- By March 15, 2012, reservation systems must be modified to enable disabled customers to make reservations in the same manner as non-disabled customers. This requires a detailed disclosure of the accessible features of each accessible room, as well as the accessible features of the amenities. Commentary from the Department of Justice indicates that facilities complying with either the 1991 Standards or the 2010 Standards must, at a minimum, provide information on: (i) the size and number of beds, (ii) the existence of a tub or roll in shower, and (iii) the available communications features. Facilities that do not meet the 1991 Standards must disclose variations from the 1991 Standards, such as: (i) issues with accessible entries, (ii) issues with paths of travel to check-in desks or restaurants, (iii) door widths, and (iv) the turning radius in the restroom.
- Accessible units must be held back as the last rented unit to guarantee the availability of an accessible unit to a disabled customer. This requirement does not apply to units or rooms in timeshares and condo hotels, when such units or rooms are not owned or substantially controlled by the entity that operates the overall facility.
It is advisable to hire consultants who understand these new ADA requirements to confirm that not only the physical aspects of your facility are compliant, but also that your website and reservation system satisfy these new requirements. Taking such steps in advance of the March 15, 2012 deadline will help to avoid litigation.