WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, hundreds of disability activists gathered in front of the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) and demanded that the trade group stop their lobbying efforts to block equal access to America’s swimming pools. The American Association of People with Disabilities, ADAPT, the National Council on Independent Living, and the National Disability Rights Network coordinated this event.
For the past three months, AH&LA has waged a full-scale lobbying effort to stop the Department of Justice (DOJ) from enforcing federal law requiring that make hotel swimming pools and spas fully accessible to people with disabilities, calling such enforcement “unreasonable.” This regulation would require hotels to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law passed 22 years ago, by ensuring that their facilities are accessible for people with disabilities.
Originally scheduled to go into effect on March 15, 2012, the rule was stalled when the hotel industry, led by AH&LA, launched an offensive to block it.
Leaders from the disability community commented on the launch of a summer campaign to protect civil rights:
"Let’s be clear on what this is really about: giving people with disabilities less than other customers who pay for a hotel room," said AAPD President and CEO Mark Perriello. "In America, we don’t treat any group of people differently. That’s called discrimination. The American Hotel & Lodging Association and its member hotels are flexing their muscles to get our government’s permission to treat us as second-class customers. Well, guess what? We have power, too. We’re not waiting on the sidelines. And we’re not going to let them spend our money to do it."
"'Readily Achievable' by its definition in the ADA means 'easily done, without much expense,'" said NCIL President Kelly Buckland. "So when the hotel lobby says this will put them out of business or they will have to close their pools, they are not being honest with the public or with Congress."
"The AH&LA and hotels are trying to get a free pass to discriminate against people with disabilities," said ADAPT President and CEO Bruce Darling. "This assault on the ADA strikes to the core of our civil rights. They have already expanded this attack to include access to public pools. Next, this assault on our rights will undercut our right to live in freedom in the community. The AH&LA is threatening our freedom as Americans with disabilities. We will not sit by as they try to undercut our rights."
"Hotels have had 22 years to comply with the ADA," said Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network Curt Decker. "Certainly that’s enough time for an industry that spends millions of dollars each year on flowers and flat-screen TVs to spend a few thousand dollars to buy the equipment necessary to make pools accessible to the millions of people – all potential customers – in this country who have disabilities. Any additional delay would be an unacceptable roll-back of the ADA. We are sending a message today that people with disabilities will not wait another summer travel and vacation season to be able to access the pools their dollars pay for each time they stay at a hotel. It is fundamentally unfair for people with disabilities to have to pay for an amenity they cannot access. This is about equal rights."
"President Jimmy Carter initiated the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals, Implementation Unit to advance the proposals that resulted from the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals held in 1977," said Peter Rosenstein, executive director of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists and appointee by President Carter in 1978 as the director of the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals, Implementation Unit. "The proposals generated by over 3,000 disability rights activists included access to a full life including employment, living accommodations and recreation facilities. They were very basic requests to be allowed to fully participate in society. The fact that, 34 years later, and 22 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disabled Americans are still forced to demonstrate to gain their full rights under the law is an outrage and something that society should be ashamed of."