By The HNN editorial staff
UPDATED 8 p.m., 15 March:
On the day it was to go into effect, the White House issued a 60-day extension that will push the compliance date for the pool lift requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act to 15 May, according to a news release from the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
DOJ will also publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with a 15-day comment period on a possible six-month extension in order to allow additional time to address misunderstandings regarding compliance with these ADA requirements.
This major shift in response is a result of work by the American Hotel & Lodging Association and hoteliers that contacted members of Congress seeking redress.
AH&LA engaged in an extensive media campaign, with national coverage expected during CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.
While AH&LA has sought a common-sense solution to the pool lift issue, it must be stressed that the lodging industry is extremely supportive of the numerous other provisions of the ADA that take effect today. AH&LA has extensive ADA resources for hotelier, including AH&LA’s new 2012 ADA Guide.
Next Steps for Hoteliers:
AH&LA will follow up with the extraordinary number of Congressional offices that have reached out on behalf of the lodging industry, as well as the White House.
Hoteliers should proceed forward in complying with the pool lift requirement under the ADA, albeit with a more realistic implementation schedule. Properties featuring pools and spas will still need a means of entry, and AH&LA will meet with the White House next week to discuss the original interpretation of the 2010 ADA Standards.
UPDATED 10:30 a.m., 14 March:
The U.S. Department of Justice said it will not extend the 15 March deadline for all swimming pools to have permanently affixed lifts if readily available.
In a statement, the American Hotel & Lodging Association said it is "extremely disappointed in the decision."
"(The Department of Justice) has stated that hoteliers, at the very least, need to demonstrate that they have shown due diligence in attempting to install a permanently affixed pool lift in advance of the March 15, 2012 deadline. While AH&LA is still pursuing remedies for hoteliers related to the deadline and need for a permanently affixed lift, DOJ is not currently backing down on these requirements," the AH&LA said.
Hotels across the U.S., including the Microtel Inns & Suites Gulf Shores in Gulf Shores, Alabama, will need to have a fixed pool lift installed by 15 March.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hoteliers across the U.S. are pool-lift shopping as a federal deadline to install fixed lifts at pools and spas is just a week away.
The U.S. Department of Justice in January clarified its position on pool lifts, stating the lifts had to have a fixed location at pools and spas. Hotels largely were using portable lifts that could be brought in to assist a disabled person in entering and exiting a pool.
Hoteliers thought the portable lifts would be enough to satisfy the DOJ’s requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But since the clarification, hoteliers have been scrambling to install or retrofit lifts that can have a fixed fixed position—a task that is easier said than done, said Martin Orlick, an attorney at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP.
“Manufacturers are at capacity, and I don’t think they could get up to (the heightened) demand,” he said. The lifts typically range in cost between $4,000 and $9,000, he added.
Rob Lee, VP for construction and renovation at Edmonds, Washington-based The Hotel Group, said his company has been out looking for lifts. The company has 26 properties in its portfolio, all with pools or spas.
“The clarification by the DOJ was kind of a game-changer,” he said.
Getting an early start on the shopping likely would not have helped ease the burden, Lee said. “Anyone who bought six months ago would’ve had to buy another,” he said. Hotel concerns
Other than the quick turnaround, the primary concern for hotels on the pool-lift issue is one of safety.
“Most pools are unsupervised,” Orlick said. “Pool lifts will have kids running around it. Kids are going to abuse it and potentially use it as a diving board.”
The American Hotel & Lodging Association has had conversations with the DOJ, asking for an extension on the timeline, said Kevin Maher, senior VP of governmental affairs at the AH&LA.
Sources interviewed for this report were in agreement that the 15 March deadline would likely stand.
“I don’t know if there will be a last-minute Hail Mary on this or what?” THG’s Lee said.
There could be a lot of fallout once the deadline passes, Maher said.
“I think we’ll see a lot of lawsuits” on 16 March, he said. “A lot of firms make a practice filing ADA lawsuits.”
The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
The AH&LA brought the lift issue up during its Legislative Action Summit held last week in Washington, D.C.
“Overwhelmingly positive,” Maher said of the response received from politicians. “They understand our concerns, our liability and they thought that our requests were reasonable.”
If hotels are not in compliance after 15 March, the properties will face tens of thousands of dollars in fines, Orlick said.
Brands are likely to fall on the side of the updated standards, said Christian Stegmaier, an attorney at Collins & Lacy in Columbia, South Carolina. “… They will follow the DOJ lock-step,” he said.
Wyndham Hotel Group, for one, is assuming compliance on the part of its franchisees.
“As a hotel franchisor, our expectation is that all of our franchisees comply with all local, state and federal laws, which would include these latest ADA requirements,” Keith Pierce, executive VP of brand operations for Wyndham Hotel Group, said in a statement. “For our part, we’ve provided detailed guides highlighting the items that franchisees need to be aware of and have encouraged owners to also make use of other resources, such as those provided by organizations like the AH&LA.”