Since 1993 when the Americans With Disabilities Act went into effect, keeping a hotel ADA compliant has always been a challenge. Compared to a retail store or restaurant, there is so much more exposure for possible issues. Such exposure has made the lodging industry a prime target for serial litigators.
Allow me a moment to draw an important distinction between serial litigators and disabled people who simply want access to public spaces and are well within their rights to advocate through the legal process to gain it. I personally have a family member with a disability and have experienced first-hand the frustration of not being able to access a restaurant or hotel.
However, there are roughly 25 law firms across California who specialize in ADA lawsuits. These suits are driven by the lawyers, not the plaintiffs, and they sue multiple businesses every day. At ADA Compliance Pros, we hear the same names over and over again.
An important point to understand, and the key take-away from this article is the fact that 95% of ADA lawsuits originate in the exterior of the parking lot. For serial litigators, the exterior functions as “low hanging fruit” as they can quickly determine whether a property is compliant from driving past… thus why these lawsuits have earned the nickname “drive-by lawsuit.”
The good news is that while the techniques from these serial ADA litigators are indeed aggressive, by being proactive and focusing on gaining compliance, you can defend yourself. The more you know, the better you can prepare. Here are the three key items that the exterior of a hotel must have to be ADA compliant:
- Proper ADA Parking
Every business that is open to the public must provide a van accessible parking space as well as additional ADA spaces. The quantity is determined by the amount of standard parking spaces your property has. You also need the proper signage and striping to designate these ADA spaces.
- Path of Travel
Every ADA parking space must have a compliant path of travel from the parking to at least one entry point of the property. For that path of travel, strict requirements are enforced to ensure it is safe for somebody with a disability to use it.
- Pedestrian Access
Any property that is open to the public must also provide street access. Similar to the path of travel from the parking, this route requires strict specifications to ensure a pedestrian with a disability can also access a property.
While this all might seem complicated and overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. The first step is getting an Access Inspection of your property. An Access Inspection will enable a licensed Certified Access Specialist (CASp) to evaluate all public accommodation areas and determine what is indeed non-compliant. Those findings are then written up as a confidential report for you to review. From there, a plan of attack can be put into place to bring your property into compliance. Getting ahead of the problem will save time and money and keep you from getting blindsided by an ADA lawsuit.
David LoPresti, co-owner of ADA Compliance Professionals, brings years of architectural design and ADA compliance experience to the table. With a mother who has had a life-long disability, he has seen first-hand the complexity and challenges of making a property ADA compliant. This experience has led to him dedicating his life to improving ADA access for businesses across California so they can be enjoyed by all.