Little Known Fact

In California, people with disabilities can “challenge” ALL barriers in a hotel – even if they have never personally encountered the obstacles. This creates a perfect storm for “serial plaintiffs” and their lawyers to survive off of the settlements from ADA lawsuits.

So to sum it up, there are two major points to get a handle on when it comes to your hotel’s ADA compliance online:

  • 1. ADA Title III Compliance: Online Hotel Content and Inventory Availability for Disabled Accessibility
  • 2. Website Accessibility: Future Proofing Your Hotel’s Website
Understanding ADA Online Marketing Laws and Hotel Website Accessibility

1. ADA Title III Compliance

REQUIREMENTS UNDER 2010 ADA TITLE III, entail the following:

An owner, lessor, lessee, or operator (hereinafter referred to as “owner and operator”) of a place of lodging must, with respect to reservations “made by telephone, in-person, website or through a third party”:

To protect your hotel from any liability, you need to audit all of your hotel’s online content, not limited to your hotel’s website but also content displayed on OTAs and franchise sites, if applicable, to ensure that you clearly and comprehensively identify and explain all of your disability accessible and non-accessible features at the property and guest room level. The content should be wordsmithed to ensure that it is not discriminatory and provides a clear explanation of all property specific ADA compliant or accessible features, room details including accessible bathroom features, and on-site equipment for the disabled so an individual with a disability can independently assess whether your place of lodging or guest rooms meet his or her accessibility needs.

Having comprehensive content regarding your hotel property’s accessibility features is just one side of the coin. You must ensure that you are not discriminating against any persons in their ability to search for and book a room type with accessibility features online.

You must ensure that all individuals with disabilities must be able to reserve accessible guest rooms with the same efficiency, immediacy, and convenience as guests with no disabilities. Your system must allow for the research of accessible rooms, booking of accessible rooms and be agnostic to a person with disabilities in the bookability of accessible guest rooms. Also, if you use 3rd party reservations services, you need to make a reasonable effort to make accessible rooms available through these channels.

An important aspect of the 2010 Regulations require places of lodging to hold accessible rooms for use by individuals with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented and the accessible room requested is the only remaining room of that type. It is also important to note that a booked accessibility room is removed from all online and off-line inventories and that particular advertised room is guaranteed to the reserving guest at check in.

Keep in mind that the Guidance to the 2010 Regulations states that third-party reservations services including your website provider and digital marketing agent are not liable for non-compliance with these rules. As the owner and operator of a place of lodging, you are responsible for ensuring that reservations made through third-party services comply.

Additionally, It is important that your front desk staff is also briefed on their responsibilities of how to explain your hotel’s compliance features and how to assist disabled persons with their stay if requested.

2. Website Accessibility

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that works together to develop Web Standards. (Click here to learn about the World Wide Web Consortium: https://www.w3.org)

The W3C’s mandate revolves around World Wide Web founder, Tim Berners-Lee’s, statement that ‘The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.’ W3C has established what is called the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). This initiative brings together organizations and governments from around the world ‘to develop guidelines and resources to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities including auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual disabilities.’ The WAI has developed what are called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is a set of recommendations and guidelines to make Web content more accessible, and is currently on its second iteration, 2.0. You can learn about WCAG 2.0 by clicking here: https://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/. WCAG has three degrees of accessibility: A, AA, and AAA.

Increasingly, governments around the world are beginning to leverage WAI and WCAG standards in establishing policies regarding website accessibility and while the DOJ has not determined formal rules or policies in respect to website accessibility, the DOJ has been insisting (without any statutes or regulation) that websites and mobile application be brought in compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA.

The elements of website design and content that the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines are set forth to make content on your website perceivable, easily operable, more understandable, and robust so they make your hotel’s website technology accessible. At the most basic explanation, your hotel website should have these (and other accessible elements):

  • Provides text alternatives for any non-text content;
  • Provides alternatives for time-based media;
  • Includes content that can be presented in different ways without losing information or structure;
  • Is easy to see and hear, including separating foreground from background;
  • Permits all functionality from a keyboard if needed (as opposed to a cursor);
  • Permits sufficient time to read and use content;
  • Is not designed in a way that is known to cause seizures;
  • Includes ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are;
  • Includes text content that is readable and understandable;
  • Operates and appears in predictable ways;
  • Helps users avoid and correct mistakes; and
  • Is compatible with current and future user agents, including assistive web technologies

We recommend that you run a Website Accessibility Evaluation software that is available at the W3C to better understand your hotel website’s accessibility compliance to the WCAG Standards, which you can find by clicking here: https://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/

ADA Has Made Life Better For Millions of Americans

It is a fact that since the implementation of ADA millions of Americans have easy access to goods and services, and this is fantastic. As ADA regulations continue to develop, here are some tips on what you can do to bring your property into compliance, and protect yourself against frivolous ADA litigation.

“Hoteliers must realize that their property must be ADA compliant. There is no getting around this.”

Four Things You Can Do Now to Protect Yourself

  • 1). Retain an attorney who is experienced in ADA compliance and defense if you ever face a claim for non-compliance.
  • 2). Contact INNsight.com to review your website’s ADA Title III and Web Accessibility Compliance. INNsight provides you the content management tools to and educational support to ensure your hotel’s website content is ADA compliant. INNsight is also at the forefront of designing WCAG 2.0 Level AA accessible hotel websites. At INNsight, we understand that the satisfaction of all guests is paramount. This is why we have taken extra steps to charge in front of ADA and accessibility compliance web design and education. As Award-Winning Leaders in Hotel Technology, we have developed the tools hoteliers need to display the ADA features and services offered easily on their website and reflect any future changes in regulations. At INNsight we continually innovate and add new features at no additional cost to you. By subscribing to INNsight, you can rest assured knowing that your hotel’s website will meet or exceed WCAG 2.0 AA compliance and you will have the tools to easily manage your content and room inventory to satisfy ADA Title III regulations.
  • 3). High on the “to-do” list is Training. Ensure that your staff is properly trained to shoulder ADA questions, and handle any situation with facts, tact, and compassion. We suggest contacting Petra Risk Solutions to perform training for staff, and on-site inspections to carry out an ADA compliance review. You will want to discuss A Certified Access Specialist Program (CASp), which can protect you from liability unless you are sued in federal court, while you are in the process of bringing your property into compliance. By having an inspection, and proper training, you can create a plan for compliance, and ensure that your staff will correctly shoulder ADA questions, and handle any situation with facts, tact, and compassion; and avoid a costly lawsuit.
  • 4). Become a Member of the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CH&LA) , California Lodging Industry Association (CLIA), the Independent Lodging Industry Association (ILIA) or Your Local State Lodging Association. The California Hotel & Lodging Association (CH&LA) is a fantastic resource for California hoteliers. CH&LA protects the interests and rights of California hoteliers. They offer their members affordable programs, access to vendors, legal counsel, and special pricing for programs, education, and more.

Alternatively, you can find a list of your own state’s hospitality trade organization by CLICKING HERE

Compliance Check List

The Compliance Survey that your attorney performs should include an inspection of:

Understanding Ease of Access

Most computers offer “ease of access” tools that are located on the control panel of your computer. These access options offer users use of a Magnifier tool, Narration, High Contrast, and On-Screen Keyboard, and speech recognition. As well as the ability to use text or visual alternatives for sounds, making appliances like a mouse and keyboard easier to use, and using the computer without a display to optimize for blindness. However, these functions DO NOT make your hotel website ADA compliant.

Bookability – Make Certain That Your Reservations System is ADA Compliant

  • Hotels must ensure that people with disabilities can make reservations during the same hours and in the same manner as people without disabilities.
  • The site must describe accessible features as well as detail inaccessible features so guests can decide if your property is a good fit for their needs.
  • Make sure that accessible guest rooms are held by/for guests with disabilities until all other inventory is sold.
  • Make sure not to overbook your ADA inventory.
  • Make a reasonable effort to make ADA inventory available through third-party services and include content that provides information about the accessible features of the hotel and accessible rooms.

ADA Checklist

Understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how it impacts the accessibility concerns of your hotel's physical property. Click here for ADA Checklist

W3C Web Accessibility Content Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0

Ensure that your hotel’s website satisfies the industry standards outlined in the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Click here for WCAG 2.0 Guidelines

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About INNsight.com

At INNsight, we know hotels and website design. Our San Francisco-based company has been artfully crafting responsive hotel websites and has been driving hotel digital marketing over a decade. Our understanding of how travelers’ search, research, and book hotel rooms, leads our fine-tuned design standards. Our user-friendly framework lets a traveler look, and then drives them to book their stay with ease. We use this INNsight to develop the most advanced hotel websites leveraging the latest web technologies and usability best practices to drive higher user engagement and conversion.

If you would like a free audit of your current website or would like more information about how INNsight can help your property’s digital marketing through our Award-Winning Technology and awesome customer service, don't hesitate to call: 415.741.4113 or email: sales@INNsight.com or go to: www.isuite.INNsight.com

Disclaimer: While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained above is correct, INNsight.com is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information on this Education blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied. In no event will INNsight.com be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information on INNsight.com or for any consequential, special or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages. Information on the INNsight.com Education Blog is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, financial, medical, or any other type of professional advice. Please seek professional assistance should you require it regarding your hotel’s ADA compliance.