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Hospitality Lawyer: Big ADA Changes Coming to Hotels

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5 September 2006
As most hotel owners and operators know, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by “public accommodations,” including places of lodging. This requires facilities to be designed, constructed, and altered – where “readily achievable”– in compliance with the accessibility standards as set forth in the Americans With Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).

The ADAAG standards – last revised in 1994 – are being amended by the Access Board, Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice (DOJ). It is expected that the proposed ADAAG amendments will be adopted substantially as drafted.

The hospitality industry has been keenly interested and involved in this process. For example, at one point, the Access Board proposed that 50% of all guest rooms be made accessible with hearing impaired devices. But industry experts estimated the economic conversion cost at nearly $3,000 per room, and in the final version of the Access Board’s proposed guidelines, the requirement has been lowered to 9% of all guest rooms.

Proposed ADAAG changes include:

• Clearer guidelines for dispersing accessible rooms among the different classes of accommodations.
• Accessible paths of travel to “non-public” areas like kitchens and laundry facilities. (Current ADAAG standards apply to paths of travel accessible to public facilities.)

• Additional barrier removal measures for pools, spas, saunas, golf facilities, exercise equipment and other recreational facilities, and the addition of pool lifts. (My partner, Marty Orlick, who has defended more than 175 ADA lawsuits, informs me that many ADA lawsuits focus on the absence of pool and spa lifts.)

• “Equivalent facilitations” to accommodate disabled guests, as sanctioned in the current guidelines, have been deleted in the proposed ADAAG standards.

Importantly, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the California Hotel & Lodging Association and other organizations have recommended a “safe harbor” provision that would exempt existing properties that are in compliance with current ADAAG standards. All industry sectors that are impacted by the ADA are watching this development as it could have broad impact in how the new guidelines are implemented.

Our Perspective. We represent developers, owners and lenders. We have helped our clients as business and legal advisors on more than $87 billion of hotel transactions, involving more than 3,900 properties all over the world. For more information, please contact Jim Butler at or 310.201.3526.

Jim Butler is one of the top hotel lawyers in the world. GOOGLE “hotel lawyer” or “hotel mixed-use” or “condo hotel lawyer” and you will see why.

Jim devotes 100% of his practice to hospitality, representing hotel owners, developers and lenders. Jim leads JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® – a team of 50 seasoned professionals with more than $87 billion of hotel transactional experience, involving more than 3,900 properties located around the globe.

Jim and his team are more than “just” great hotel lawyers. They are also hospitality consultants and business advisors. They are deal makers. They can help find the right operator or capital provider. They know who to call and how to reach them. They are a major gateway of hotel finance, facilitating the flow of capital with their legal skill, hospitality industry knowledge and ability to find the right “fit” for all parts of the capital stack. Because they are part of the very fabric of the hotel industry, they are able to help clients identify key business goals, assemble the right team, strategize the approach to optimize value and then get the deal done.

Jim is frequently quoted as an expert on hotel issues by national and industry publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, BusinessWeek, and Hotel Business. A frequent author and speaker, Jim’s books, articles and many expert panel presentations cover topics reflecting his practice, including hotel and hotel-mixed use investment and development, negotiating, re-negotiating or terminating hotel management agreements, acquisition and sale of hospitality properties, hotel finance, complex joint venture and entity structure matters, workouts, as well as many operating and strategic issues.

Jim Butler is a Founding Partner of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro LLP and he is Chairman of the firm’s Global Hospitality Group®. If you would like to discuss any hospitality or condo hotel matters, Jim would like to hear from you. Contact him at or 310.201.3526. For his views on current industry issues, visit

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