Recent Protest by Grassroots Disability Advocates Prompts AH&LA to Continue Discussion with Meeting Offer for Week of September 10th
As a direct result of a national boycott and subsequent grassroots protests and direct actions by disability rights groups, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) is coming back to the negotiating table to “continue this discussion” regarding the ADA requirement for hotel swimming pools to be made wheelchair accessible by January 31st, 2013.
In an email, Kevin Maher, Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs at AH&LA, extended an offer to come back to the negotiating table and “continue this discussion” with the disability organizations regarding hotel industry noncompliance with the ADA’s pool lift regulations. Maher’s email comes weeks after four national disability groups – the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Disability Rights Network, ADAPT, and the National Council on Independent Living – launched a boycott of hotels represented on the boards of the AH&LA and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association (AAHOA).
The meeting is tentatively scheduled to take place the week of September 10th.
During the launch of the disability groups’ boycott in July, leaders from the community outlined four distinct requirements that needed to be met by the hotel industry in order for the boycott to be suspended:
Mark Perriello, President and CEO of AAPD, commented: “Although we welcome AH&LA’s offer to come back to the table and discuss these issues, we remain cautious as we enter this meeting. The disability community is looking for answers from AH&LA and it is our job to keep the industry accountable. AH&LA should have no doubt that if we come out of this meeting with no change from their side, this boycott will be sustained and continued.”
"It's really a shame that the hotel industry continues to refuse to accommodate those of us who are wheelchair users," said Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Center on Independent Living. "We worked for years to get the Americans with Disabilities Act passed back in 1990, but we continue to fight for equal access to facilities to this day. But we will not simply go away or sit on the sidelines in this fight -- we will keep working and keep organizing until Americans with disabilities truly have equal access in this country."
In 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) clarified a rule on access to hotel pools, asking hotel owners to provide access to swimming pools in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Like all ADA requirements, this rule would have some flexibility for existing pools that could not be retrofitted and businesses for whom this would be a burden. However, the AH&LA refused to agree to a mutually-acceptable compromise. Even after the DOJ clarified that hotel owners had significant latitude to choose whether to install a fixed lift, and also grandfathered pools that already had portable ones, the AH&LA chose to spend millions of dollars on high-paid lobbyists to roll back the recent rule requirement -- thereby rolling back civil rights legislation. Rather than spending money to ensure equal access regardless of physical ability, the AH&LA is pushing for legislation in Congress that would amend the ADA to exclude pools lifts or ensure the DOJ did not have the funds to enforce any final rule.
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