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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Alabama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

U.S. Attorney Kenyen R. Brown And RSA Agree To Increase Access To Battle House Hotel For People With Disabilities

United States Attorney Kenyen R. Brown announced that his office has reached an agreement with the Employees and the Teachers Retirement Systems of Alabama (collectively “RSA”) and their wholly owned subsidiary PCH Hotels and Resorts, Inc. (“PCH”) to make it easier for individuals with disabilities to use the landmark Renaissance Mobile Battle House Hotel and Spa (“Hotel”) in Mobile, AL.  The agreement, filed as a consent decree along with a complaint, was approved today by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.  It resolves charges by the United States Attorney’s Office that RSA and PCH violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they constructed and renovated the Battle House Hotel.

            The Battle House, a landmark building in downtown Mobile, Alabama, was originally built in 1852.  The current structure, built in 1908, was central to the city’s commercial and social life for decades.  Closed in the early 1970’s, the hotel remained shuttered until it was purchased by RSA in 2002.  During the course of an extensive restoration, RSA added a new parking deck, spa, pool, and fitness center, and constructed the adjacent office building, RSA Battle House Tower (“the Tower’).  Today the Battle House once again plays an important part in downtown Mobile civic life and is the flagship of RSA investment in Mobile.

            Acting on a complaint from a wheelchair user, in 2013 the United States conducted an ADA compliance survey of the Hotel and Tower.  RSA cooperated fully in the survey process, which revealed significant violations of the ADA.  In order to ensure that people with disabilities be able to use the Battle House and its amenities to the fullest extent possible, RSA has agreed to remedy all ADA violations and to enter into the consent decree. 

            The complaint alleges that, among other problems:

  1. The main entrance to the Battle House on Royal Street has no curb ramps or demarcated passenger loading zones.  Wheelchair users must travel along a lane of traffic to reach a city curb ramp at the intersection of Royal and St. Francis Streets to gain access to the Hotel;
  2. The interior ramp for wheelchair users inside the Dauphin Street entrance is partially obstructed by a structural column.  Various other ramps and corridors in the Hotel and Tower are too steep, or do not allow proper turning room;
  3. Wheelchair users entering the Battle House from St. Francis Street find their path to the Hotel blocked by stairs.  As a result, they must turn in the opposite direction and circle around the entire ground floor of the Tower before reaching a ramp which leads to the Hotel;
  4. The main swimming pool and outdoor hot tub, as well as the spa whirlpools in the men’s and women’s spas, provide no means of access for people with disabilities.  Showers and dressing rooms in the spas and fitness center also fail to meet ADA standards;
  5. The best rooms in the Hotel are unavailable to people with disabilities.  Bathrooms and other features of those rooms that are accessible do not comply with the ADA standards;
  6. There is no signage to indicate the accessible entrances to the Hotel or accessible routes within the Hotel.

            In addition to requiring RSA and PCH to remedy ADA violations described in the complaint, the consent decree commits them to adopt new policies and procedures and to provide training on the ADA to employees.

            “Ensuring that the historic Battle House is accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities, is a win-win resolution,” said United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama Kenyen R. Brown.  “ADA compliant facilities aid the disabled and make our community more welcoming and business friendly.  We commend RSA and PCH for their commitment to open the Battle House to everyone, regardless of disability.”

            The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.  The investigation and litigation were conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  The US Attorney’s Office commends former Assistant United States Attorney Gary Moore and ADA contractor Rick Hinrichs for their investigation of this case, along with DOJ Architect Diane Perry.  The attorney handling the case is Assistant United States Attorney Holly L. Wiseman.

            The case is captioned United States of America v. Employees Retirement Systems of Alabama, Teachers’ Retirement Systems of Alabama, and PCH Hotels and Resorts, Inc., 1:14-cv-00478-CB-N.

The consent decree was reached under Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by certain businesses that are open to the public, including hotels.  Those interested in finding out more about the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free information line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.
Updated January 26, 2015