December 8, 2023
Contact: Jess Davidson, email@example.com
WASHINGTON – On Tuesday December 5, Acheson Hotels, LLC. v. Laufer was dismissed by the United States Supreme Court. The case was brought by Deborah Laufer, a wheelchair user and a “tester”, against the Coast Village Hotel in Maine (owned by Acheson Hotels at the time) for failing to provide accessibility information on its website. AAPD is relieved by and glad for the Court’s order to dismiss this case.
Under the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Reservation Rule, which is used to enforce the ADA, hotels are required to provide information about their accessibility features so that customers with disabilities can book lodging that meets their needs.
Ms. Laufer has filed many cases against hotels for violating the Reservation Rule. In these cases she is known as a “tester” because she voluntarily puts herself in a situation to experience discrimination. She goes to hotel websites to see if they comply with the Reservation Rule. When these websites do not have the required accessibility information on their site, which makes it difficult for her and others with disabilities to book the lodging that we need. Ms. Laufer challenged that discrimination in court, as she and many other testers had before. Acheson Hotels questioned Ms. Laufer’s standing – or her ability to sue them.
Civil rights testing has long been a vital tool in ensuring the enforcement of civil rights laws – from the Fair Housing Act to the ADA. A decision that eroded the standing of testers could hinder people with disabilities and other communities from protecting and enforcing their rights.
That is why AAPD became an amici in a friend of the court brief, along with 17 other leading disability organizations. AAPD also met with Ms. Laufer’s and Acheson hotel’s legal teams multiple times to educate them on the magnitude of this case.
We were especially glad that the Justices noted during oral arguments that when hotels and third-party booking websites do not put enough–or accurate–information regarding the hotel’s accessibility, it sends the message that disabled people are not welcome at their business.
The Court specifically recognized that this hurts the entire disability community. It also recognized that disabled people have the right to “seek relief” in court. This means that they can sue them for the harm caused by lack of access.
“AAPD is extremely relieved that the Supreme Court dismissed this case and recognized its potential harms for disabled people.The ability to sue a business in order to enforce one’s civil rights continues to be incredibly necessary for disabled people as it is sometimes the only way to ensure equal access. That’s why people who “test” the accessibility of businesses, housing, and other public accommodations are so important.” said Maria Town, AAPD’s President and CEO.
We are grateful for the work of Ms. Laufer and testers everywhere, and everyone who works to ensure accessibility for all. AAPD is glad the Court recognized the harm that lack of access causes disabled individuals and our community at large. And we hope to see prompt website updates from hotels and third-party booking groups.