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Are You Ready?

Part of the seminar at an RFN ConFAM© deals with the reunion planner’s responsibility with respect to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

One of the reasons planners are urged to visit the reunion hotel before a contract is signed, is to insure that the hotel is compliant. In many cases, the reunion planner may be declared personally liable if there are infractions that adversely impact an attendee.

The Rules Are Changing

On March 15, 2012, 20 years after the passage of the original ADA, a new set of rules will take effect. This is not new! These standards were created two years ago and are officially called the 2010 Standards for Acceptable

Design. New hotels must comply

immediately, but existing hotels can still use the old standards until they renovate.

The impact on hotels will be major, and further, will put an additional burden on the reunion planner. The new requirements for public areas are much more severe, covering all public areas of a hotel including, but not limited to: elevators, website accessibility, service animal policies, physical fitness areas including exercise rooms, swimming pools, and saunas, plus lobbies, meeting rooms, and ballrooms.

it Five Percent!

One of the major rules is that five percent of public space must be ”fully” ADA accessible. Many hotel bars,

for example, have placed a low table next to the bar for persons in a wheelchair. That no longer meets the code. Now, there has to be an actual section of the bar that is lower. As far as meeting space is concerned, the space not only has to be accessible throughout, but also requires a clear line of sight.

More Rules

A special slide-out shelf at the hotel registration desk no longer is adequate for accommodating wheelchair- bound guests. Hotels must provide actual counter space at a designated height.

• If there are multiple elevators responding to the same call button, all must be accessible-compliant.

• All swimming pools will require lifts or sloped entry. • Spas must ensure saunas and steam rooms have accessible doors.

• In a fitness center, at least one of each type of exercise equipment categorized as promoting strength and cardiovascular health must be designated accessible and have clear floor space to enable an individual to properly use the equipment.

Noncompliance will come at a heavy price. The

Department of Justice will impose a fine of $55,000 for the first offense and $110,000 for subsequent violations. The DOJ’s enforcement activities against hotels has been on the upswing (as has its budget, climbing to $162 million last year from $123 million in 2009). In November 2010, as a result of lengthy investigation and negotiation, Hilton agreed to a fine of $50,000 and to remodel 900 of its U.S. hotels (built after 1993) to meet ADA requirements for accessible guest rooms and facilities. Allegations against the chain included failure to disperse accessible rooms, failure to allow persons with disabilities to reserve accessible rooms online or by telephone, and failure to provide accessible sleeping rooms when they were reserved. According to a statement by the DOJ, that settlement represented the first time the agency had required a franchisor to certify that its hotels — whether franchised or managed — were in ADA compliance. The agreement also represented the first time a hotel chain has been required to make its online reservations system accessible and to provide data about features in accessible rooms throughout the entire chain.

Page 36

R EUNION F R IENDL Y N EWS • Spring, 2012

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