5 questions, answers about ADA compliance
 
5 questions, answers about ADA compliance
28 JANUARY 2016 8:23 AM
HNN readers asked five questions about ADA compliance at hotels. Two legal experts provided the answers.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—You asked. We found the answers.
 
Hotel News Now has run numerous stories about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, with topics ranging from how to handle service animals to providing equal access to guests.
 
However, sometimes those articles inspired more questions from you. We asked two legal sources to provide some insights on your questions.

1. If someone comes in and asks me for a handicap room, can I ask them for proof they are disabled or handicapped at that point (such as a handicap sticker)?


 
Minh N. Vu of Seyfarth Shaw: “No. A hotel should not inquire about or require proof of disability when a person requests an accessible room. However, it would be appropriate to say something like: ‘The room you are requesting has features for guests with mobility and/or hearing disabilities. Would you like to continue booking this room?’ This clarification point is helpful to ensure that the person booking the room knows what type of room he or she is booking.”

2. If a hotel does charge more for an ADA room, what recourse is there? 


 
Minh N. Vu of Seyfarth Shaw: “Hotels cannot charge more for a room just because it is accessible. The rates for comparable accessible and non-accessible rooms must be the same. A person who has been charged more for an accessible room can claim an ADA Title III violation and bring a private lawsuit. He or she can also file a complaint with the Department of Justice.”
 
3. If a hotel must provide equal access to everyone and not charge an additional amount for service animals, then logic would follow that they cannot charge extra for a refrigerator to keep medication refrigerated. Can you comment on the legalities of this? 

Taylor Burras of Michelman & Robinson: “Hoteliers must make ‘reasonable modifications’ to their standard policies when accommodating a person with a disability. Section 36.301(c) of the Americans with Disabilities Act states: ‘A public accommodation may not impose a surcharge on a particular individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities to cover the costs of measures, such as the provision of auxiliary aids, barrier removal, alternatives to barrier removal, and reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, that are required to provide that individual or group with the nondiscriminatory treatment required by the Act.’ Thus, it would stand to reason that a hotel cannot charge extra for a refrigerator to keep medication refrigerated.”
 
4. Are therapy dogs classified as a “Service Dog”? We have seen a recent influx of travelers and they carry a tag that said “Certified Therapy Dog.”

Taylor Burras of Michelman & Robinson: “The ADA defines a ‘service animal’ as ‘any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.’ However, dogs with the sole function of providing comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA definition. Since they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, such therapy dogs do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. 
 
“It’s important to note that the ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that a neurological event or episode is about to happen and take a specific action that will help prevent, or lessen the impact, that dog would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort or emotional support, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA. 
 
“Notably, however, some state or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places, so hotels should check with their state or local government agencies to find out if they may be subject to such a regulation.”

5. Is there an appropriate way to handle a situation where the dog is a service dog but not apparently working? (For example, there was a guest who had to carry the dog who was on chemotherapy and had arthritis in its back legs. He was trained, but it seemed he was retired and it was seemingly more of a rescue situation for a dog that had been in service.)


 
Minh N. Vu of Seyfarth Shaw: “When a hotel has reason to believe that a dog may not be a service dog, it can ask two questions: ‘Do you need this dog because of a disability?’ If the answer is yes, then the second question that can be asked is: ‘What work or tasks has this animal been trained to perform?’ If the owner cannot identify the work or tasks that the dog has been trained to perform for the person with a disability, the dog is not a service animal.”
 

No Comments

Comments that include blatant advertisements or links to products or company websites will be removed to avoid instances of spam. Also, comments that include profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, solicitations or advertising, or other similarly inappropriate or offensive comments or material will be removed from the site. You are fully responsible for the content you post. The opinions expressed in comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Please report any violations to our editorial staff.