Disabilities Group Boycotts Hotels Over Pool Accessibility
What started out as a disagreement over hotel pool wheelchair lifts has escalated into a full boycott of some of the country’s top hotel chains as the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) take opposite stands on the heated debate.
The Background Story
What both sides do agree on is that American travelers with disabilities deserve access to the same hotel amenities that able-bodied travelers enjoy. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division published rules regarding accessible pools in 2010. In May of 2012, the rules were updated in response to feedback from the hotel industry, regarding challenges hotels faced while trying to implement the changes.
The Americans with Disabilities Act ruling requires that all public swimming areas, which includes hotels and motels, be retrofitted to make them accessible to people with disabilities. All new construction of pools must be done in a way that allows a person with a disability to enjoy the same independence, ease, and convenience enjoyed by those without disabilities. The last update gave the hotels until January 31, 2013 to comply.
One of the big points of debate is the type of wheelchair lifts that should be required. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is urging hotels to pick up the pace in the renovations, and also to invest in permanent lifts instead of portable models. Permanent lifts are typically easier to use and more accessible, but they come with a much higher cost than portable lifts do. The new regulation also requires that each body of water have lift access, and that large pools have more than one entry point for disabled swimmers. Permanent lifts require more space poolside and sometimes require digging up concrete and placing electrical conduits.
The hotels claim the expense is too great and the demands not always possible to fulfill. Permanent lifts can be dangerous when there is not a lifeguard on duty, as the hydraulic lifts move quickly and can cause injury. In addition, many hotels were built in a way that providing multiple lifts between a pool and a spa, while leaving room for guests to safely navigate around the area safely, is not possible.
“Our industry really wants to accommodate guests and it’s in our best interest to do that, but we want to provide access safely for everyone,” said Marlene Colucci, the executive vice president for policy for the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) in Washington, DC. “We’re asking the federal government to take a balanced approach,” she said. “You should be able to share a lift between two bodies of water in the same area, for example.”
The AAPD says the hotels aren’t trying hard enough. Along with the National Disability Rights Network, the National Council on Independent Living, and ADAPT, they have been organizing boycotts against the hotels that lack a fixed wheelchair lift in their pool areas.
“You have a lot of big hotel chains hiding behind the trade group associations saying on one hand they want to work to support people with disabilities, and on the other hand, they’re actively working against equality,” says AAPD CEO Mark Perriello.
In addition to boycotting hotels based on the lack of a fixed lift, the boycott organizers are also asking supporters to steer conventions, meetings and leisure travel away from hotels whose leaders fought to delay the regulations. They also plan to make a website that will blow the whistle on hotels that do not have fixed lifts in place. The website will also include a “wall of shame.”
“I think it’s an unfortunate move,” says Eric Reller, a lobbyist with the hotel industry’s AHLA, of the boycott. “We’ve never advocated taking anything away from the ADA. We still advocate for access to pools. We’re fully compliant with hundreds of new ADA regulations,” he says.
He also said he views the boycott as a “fundraising and membership drive.”
Original article can be found on: amsvans.com