December 14, 1998
xxxxxxxxxx, xxxxxxx xxxxx
Dear Mr. xxxxxxxx:
Senator McCain requested that I respond to your recent e-mail message, in which you suggested that accessible hotel rooms should be available on ground floors only. You expressed concern that individuals with disabilities housed in accessible rooms on higher floors may not be able to safely exit buildings during emergencies. Please excuse our delay in responding.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities that have rights or obligations under the Act. This response to your inquiry is intended to assist you in understanding the ADA's requirements. However, this technical assistance does not constitute a determination by the Department of Justice of specific rights or responsibilities under the ADA, and it is not a binding determination by the Department.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by places of public accommodation, including hotels and motels. The Department of Justice is required by the ADA to issue a regulation to implement the statute. The Department's title III regulation is published at 28 C.F.R. part 36. This regulation and the Department's Title III Technical Assistance Manual are enclosed for your information.
In order to ensure that people with disabilities have a range of options equivalent to those available to other hotel guests, the title III regulation requires accessible hotel rooms to be dispersed among the various classes of rooms available at the hotel. Factors to be considered in dispersing rooms include room size, price, available amenities, and number of beds. Although there is no prohibition on locating accessible rooms on the first floor (if the available rooms offer a range of options), hotels usually find that some accessible rooms must be provided on more than one level of the facility in order to provide an equivalent choice of views or other amenities. To ensure the safety of individuals with disabilities in accessible spaces that are above the ground floor, the ADA regulation requires all new facilities, including hotels, to provide areas of rescue assistance on any level that does not provide an accessible egress route for emergency evacuation.
The Department believes that the dispersal requirements are essential to ensure that the services and facilities of a hotel are provided to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. As stated in the preamble to the title III regulation, the "ADA recognizes that the provision of goods and services in an integrated manner is a fundamental tenet of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability." Please see the enclosed title III regulation, at page 472 and 595-597, for further information on the ADA's requirements for integrated settings.
As Appendix B to the title III regulation makes clear, the exclusion and segregation of individuals with disabilities and the denial of equal opportunities enjoyed by others, based on, among other things, presumptions, patronizing attitudes, fears, and stereotypes about individuals with disabilities is prohibited. If a hotel restricted accessible rooms to the ground floor because of fears or presumptions about the ability of individuals with disabilities to exit the hotel during emergencies, it would violate both the letter and spirit of the ADA. Individuals who seek accessible hotel rooms have a wide range of abilities and disabilities, as well as tastes in hotel rooms. The dispersal of accessible hotel rooms provides individuals with disabilities the greatest opportunity to select the rooms that best meet their needs and desires.
The U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) is currently reviewing the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines, on which the requirements in the Department's rule are based. The Access Board intends to issue proposed revisions to the accessibility guidelines early next year. You may want to share your concerns about the safety of accessible hotel rooms with the Access Board during the notice and comment period for the proposed revisions.
I hope this information is helpful to you.Sincerely, John L. Wodatch Chief Disability Rights Section Civil Rights Division