ADA Hotel Room Compliance — How to Find ADA Accessible Hotel Rooms
Everyone has a right to safety, comfort and ease. This is especially important when traveling for work, and spending nights at hotels, when you are far away from the comforts of home.
That’s why ADA-compliant lodging is easier to find in hotels than it is in private home rentals — because every hotel is legally required to ensure accessible accommodations. Still, even ADA-compliant lodging can come in a variety of forms.
To ensure you know what to look for when seeking ADA lodging, we’ll cover some frequently asked questions: such as what accommodations are required by the ADA, what makes a hotel room ADA compliant, and how to identify truly accessible hotel accommodations.
1. What are ADA requirements?
ADA requirements are federally mandated rules created by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. This law was created to expose cultural blindspots and prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, and is enforced by the US Department of Justice.
2. Who is required to comply with the ADA?
All public institutions and programs are required to comply with ADA in some way, shape, or form, even if they are privately owned —and hotels are no exception.
The law states that buildings built before 1992 are required to make reasonable efforts to accommodate people with disabilities in at least a portion of their spaces.
All properties built by the public or for public use after 1992 are required to follow the ADA’s guidelines for accessibility, which means that, in general, they will be more accessible than properties built earlier.
3. What makes a hotel ADA compliant?
Some basic ADA-required accommodations include accessible walkways, entrances, and public spaces. Other reasonable accommodations required by the ADA are accessible communication devices. In addition, property staff are required to understand these accessibility accommodations, and be able to speak to them with authority.
Accessible Walkways, Entrances, and Public Spaces
The most basic ADA hotel room requirements focus on making entryways and walkways accessible to everyone. Any building built after 1992 needs to be fully accessible — meaning that at least 60% of entrances should accommodate people who require mobility devices like wheelchairs.
Accessible entrances must meet ADA door clearance requirements and measurements, like width minimums and maneuvering space. Other requirements include doors that open more easily, and close at a slower rate, to allow everyone to move through safely.
The same principles apply to public pathways and areas. In particular, the ADA requires that the path of travel to restrooms, telephones, and drinking fountains are usable by individuals with disabilities, including wheelchair users — at least “to the maximum extent feasible.”
Some accommodations you may be familiar with include wider passages, ramp alternatives to stairs, priority parking spaces (with wider access to accommodate mobility devices) and of course, elevators. However, there are hotel-specific accommodations, like ADA reception desk requirements, which focus on height and reach, and clear lobby spaces for easier navigation by all.
Accessible Hotel Rooms for Short-Term and Long-Term Stays
There’s a lot that goes into creating an equally-accessible hotel room, from ADA elevator requirements to door clearance. However, there are many additional requirements you may not know about.
For instance, accessible hotel rooms should incorporate the ADA height requirements for mattresses, requiring that they are no more than 20-23 inches from the floor. The door, also, might feature a second peephole at a height accessible to wheelchair users.
The room should feature significant maneuverability as well, and the hotel should have information available about the accessibility elements of their property and their rooms, such as the configuration of rooms and restrooms. This is helpful information for anyone planning a stay, but may be particularly helpful for people with limited vision.
Hotel rooms for long-term stays might also incorporate an accessible kitchen, with special attention to details such as ADA counter height requirements.
And of course, every ADA hotel room should have an accommodating bathroom.
Most people are familiar with at least some of the elements of the ADA requirements for restrooms. Features like handrails, maneuverable space and emergency cords have become more available in public spaces of all kinds.
In hotels, there are also ADA sink requirements, as well as grab bars, roll-in showers, tub seats, or folding seats for showers. However, additional thoughtful touches, like handheld shower heads, may also be available.
Accessible Communication & Safety Devices
It’s also important that hotels provide adequate ways for guests with disabilities to communicate with them, or to receive important safety messages.
Each room should incorporate fire alarms and sprinklers, but also strobes & visual alarms for deaf or hard of hearing.
According to ADA Section 36.303(e), hotels should provide a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (or TDD) in each hotel room, and “should also provide a TDD or similar device at the front desk, in order to take calls from guests who use TDDs in their rooms.”
By providing these devices in certain guest rooms, hotels can provide everyone the same access to front desk service, including amenities like the ability to order room service.
Of course, some hotels will have additional amenities, which by law are required to be accessible as well. For instance, hotels with restaurants will need to comply with dining requirements designed to make it possible for everyone to enjoy a meal out.
There are requirements for the path of travel in a restaurant, depending on the restaurant’s design, to make navigation with a mobility device or service animal possible.
There are also ADA table requirements, which specify a table height no higher than 34 inches, and with room underneath for mobility devices. Other things — like a consideration for the reach range of a person sitting down — allow for wheelchair users to access self-serve items more easily.
If there are other amenities available — such as fitness rooms, pools or saunas, these are required to comply with ADA requirements as well. Accessible entrances allow people with disabilities to enjoy these amenities with their loved ones just like people without disabilities — and in some cases, like when a ramp is incorporated into a pool and provides a more gradual access option, provide “unintended” benefits for everyone.
Perhaps most importantly, an ADA compliant hotel will have a trained staff, ready to communicate effectively with everyone, including people with disabilities.
The ADA “requires that businesses take steps necessary to communicate effectively” with customers with disabilities, keeping in mind they may have limited vision, hearing, or difficulty speaking. Official ADA compliance training might mean additional training in sign language or the use of TDD devices, for instance.
At a base level, hotel staff should understand the ADA regulations, which dictate how much they can and can’t ask about a person’s disability, and what accommodations they are legally entitled to, such as the assistance of a service animal.
However, hotel staff should also be trained in other elements of effective communication, including respectful language and appropriate terminology.
4. How can I be sure a hotel is ADA compliant?
Before booking, look for information about the elements we’ve described above.
Most information, like the accessibility of hotel rooms and amenities, is required by the ADA to be publicly available, so it shouldn’t be hard to find.
On Hotel Engine’s platform, for instance, accessible rooms are noted right in the room type.
Other things may be obvious as well: an antique hotel, for instance, was probably built before 1992, and therefore may not have all the ADA accessibility features available at a brand new hotel.
As for the helpfulness of the hotel staff, you may be able to find information about that in the customer reviews.
By understanding the principles of ADA compliance or using a platform like Hotel Engine, you can determine whether a hotel is right for you.
With Hotel Engine, our 24/7 US-based Member Support team is standing by to help with just this kind of booking question. If you have concerns about the accessibility of a particular room, or need help finding special considerations — like an accessible kitchen for a long-term stay, our support team is happy to help. They can reach out to the hotel on your behalf to determine whether the room (and hotel) will meet your needs and wants — and can be reached via phone, email, or chat.
There are many things that make hotels ADA OK, but some hotels go above and beyond to make people with disabilities more comfortable.
Accessibility allows everyone to enjoy business and personal travel fully, with equal access to the amenities that make stays more comfortable across the board. By understanding the range of available options, you can ensure that every booking is a successful one, for every traveler.
Ready to start booking better? Sign up for your free Hotel Engine account, and start simplifying trip management today.
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.