Accessible tourism is an under-served market of travel shoppers, with almost a third of the world’s population directly affected with disabilities. [UN Disability] The American Disabilities Act requires all public accommodations to provide equal opportunity to all guests.
Transparency of information is not only important to potential guests, it also can help to reduce the number of ADA-related lawsuits in the hospitality industry.
We recommend taking a proactive and empathetic approach to your hotel’s ADA compliance to mitigate legal or financial risks, while establishing your hotel’s value to travel shoppers. It’s your job to ensure that all guests have equal access to your hotel facilities and a comfortable night’s sleep in a mobility and hearing-accessible room.
Have a Plan in Place
Put yourself in your guests’ shoes and take a journey to and from the guest room to the entrance. Consider:
- How do guests arrive at your hotel and what do they do once they get there?
- How do guests check-in and check-out?
- How do they move about your facilities?
- How are the guest rooms and washrooms set up?
- What in-room guest services are provided?
Dedicated Accessibility Page
Tip: Hotels built before 1991 have different physical requirements, but still require the same items to be described on their website.
Accessibility pages generally list information about hotel entrances, common spaces, and specific guest room amenities. The goal is to be as transparent about the on-property experience as possible. List all the details you think may be relevant to a travel shopper with ADA-related needs, including parking information, elevator locations, and routes for wheelchair users.
Listing contact information for guests to call with questions is helpful, but if other room types and areas are described with an ADA-friendly lens, travel shoppers should have all the information they may need available on the website.
Modern Website Compliance
In addition to an accessible property, your hotel website should also accommodate all users. Ensure that all of your guests can make reservations the same way on an ADA-compliant website, the first step to a positive booking experience. For example, website users with screen-readers should be able to find information on your website through clear understandable content and descriptive image captions.
Find out more about Website ADA Compliance Guidelines and what Vizlly can do to help.
Consider how guests maneuver through your hotel from a seated level and with the width of a chair. Wheelchair users require widened doorways, access ramps, and space to turn around. Test the guest’s route from check-in to their room to shower and then into bed for the night.
Addressing disability-sensitive information means always referring to the person first, and then the disability. Always talk directly to the guest as opposed to their travel companion to ensure they will have a comfortable stay.
Accommodating Guests Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
It’s important that your hotel staff are trained to communicate with guests who are deaf or hard of hearing. Teletypewriters (TTY) must be available on request for guests to use as a telephone in their room. A TTY is also useful at the front desk for discussing billing or any other additional inquiries.
Put together a portable communication kit that includes a TTY, visual alarms and other visual notification devices to make your guest rooms hearing-accessible.
Serving Guests Who Are Blind or Visually-Impaired
Over 2 million people in the United States are considered legally blind which means they have less than 20/200 or lower levels of vision even with corrective lenses. Ask your guest about his or her preferences for room selection, payment, and directions.
All information should be available in alternative formats, including Braille, large print, or audio recordings. Some hotels find it helpful to put all relevant information into a single package at the front desk in addition to a dedicated page on their website!
ADA requires all properties to make an exception to a “no pets” policy to allow the use of service animals. Service animals must be allowed to accompany individuals with a disability to all public areas of the hotel designed for guest use. Note that not all service animals wear special collars, and guests may not always carry state certification papers with them.
Emergency Exit Plans
In the event of emergency, all guests must be able to independently and safely evacuate the building. Helpful emergency initiatives for accessibility purposes include:
- Accessible guest rooms situated on the first floor
- Braille and large print evacuation instructions on the back of the door
- Clearly marked exit routes
Inform guests of the nearest fire exit during check-in, with specific language such as, “In case of a fire, exit your room to the right. The emergency exit door is the third door on your left.”
For a deeper dive into building accessibility, visit the U.S. Department of Justice to reference an extensive survey of ADA requirements created in 2010.
A dedicated Accessibility page on your website is the next step in showing awareness and taking action to create comfortable accommodations for all of your guests.
Follow our sample Hotel Accessibility Checklist below to take inventory of your hotel and guest room features. Your Success Team can help create an accessibility landing page on your website with a statement provided by your hotel’s legal support team.
Government Regulations for Hearing & Mobility Accessibility
Written by Katrina Fowler, Content Specialist