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Disability Community Protests the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Assault on the Americans with Disabilities Act

by | Jun 14, 2012 | Press Release

Washington, D.C. (June 14, 2012)–  Today hundreds of disability activists gathered in front of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Washington, DC headquarters 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 they make hotel swimming pools and spas fully accessible to people with disabilities, calling such enforcement “unreasonable.” This regulation to require hotels to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law passed 22 years ago, but 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 the AH&LA, launched an offensive to block it.

Leaders from the disability community commented on their 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. 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 at the sidelines.  And we’re not going to let them spend our money to do it,” said AAPD President and CEO Mark Perriello.

“Readily Achievable” by its definition in the ADA means “easily done, without much expense’.  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 Congress,” said NCIL President Kelly Buckland.

“The AH&LA and hotels are trying to get a free pass to discriminate against people with disabilities. 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,” said ADAPT President and CEO Bruce Darling.

“Hotels have had 22 years to comply with the ADA.  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,” said Curt Decker, Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network.

“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. 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 year 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,” said Peter Rosenstein, the current executive director of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists and appointed by President Carter in 1978 as the director of the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals, Implementation Unit.

ADAPT is a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom. www.adapt.org

The National Council on Independent Living is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including: Centers for Independent Living(CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), individuals with disabilities, and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.  www.ncil.org

The National Disability Rights Network is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). Collectively, the P&A/CAP network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.  www.ndrn.org

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The American Association of People with Disabilities is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities.