Tips For Ensuring An Outstanding Guest Experience For Individuals With Disabilities

By Minh N. Vu and Karen L. Stephenson

It’s been 20 years since the signing of the original Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a law that has influenced society and the way we do business. Recent revisions to the ADA make it more important than ever to stay up to date on how your business accommodates people with disabilities.  This article provides ways that lodging properties can help guests with disabilities make the most of their stays through the property’s compliance with the legal requirements of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This article also addresses new accessibility requirements for existing and newly-constructed swimming pools, wading pools, and spas.


  1. Allow individuals to use service animals in all areas where guests are allowed.
  2. Allow individuals with mobility disabilities to use non-traditional mobility devices such as Segways and golf carts at the place of lodging, unless their use poses a legitimate threat of injury to others or damage to property.
  3. Provide assistance with luggage even if assistance is not normally provided.
  4. Remove or relocate furniture in a guest room to create more maneuvering space for a wheelchair or other mobility device.
  5. Lower beds upon request so that a guest can more easily transfer to it from a wheelchair.
  6. Retrieve food items from the restaurant’s buffet.
  7. Place buffet items within accessible reach ranges.
  8. Accept alternate forms of identification if the guest’s disability precludes him or her from having a driver’s license.
  9. Ensure that front desk employees have a list of all accessible rooms in the facility with information about the accessibility features in each room so that they can properly assign rooms and answer room-related questions.  Employees should also be prepared to provide more information about an accessible room if requested by a guest.
  10. Ensure that employees are familiar with accessibility information regarding common areas and amenities.  For example, employees should know the location of accessible entrances, parking, and restrooms.  Restaurant employees should know which tables in the food and beverage venue are accessible.
  11. Do not sell accessible rooms to guests who do not specifically request them until the accessible rooms are the only remaining rooms of their type.
  12. Maintain the facility’s accessible features, including:
  • Ensuring that exterior and interior accessible routes are unobstructed at all times.
  • Training housekeeping employees to place items such as television remote controls and adjustable shower heads no higher than 48” above the floor.
  • Ensuring that the lowered section at the registration counter intended for use by guests in wheelchairs is kept clear.
  1. Provide auxiliary aid and services to individuals with speech, hearing, or sight disabilities, free of charge, to ensure effective communication.  For example:

For individuals who are blind or have low vision:

  • Read uncomplicated documents out loud.
  • Provide more complicated documents in large print, Braille, electronic, or audio formats.
  • Complete forms or paperwork for the individual.

For individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing:

  • Exchange written notes.
  • Use facial expressions or physical gestures that illustrate information
  • Use a TTY/TDD, relay service, or a qualified interpreter for more complicated communications.

For individuals with speech disabilities:

  • Exchange notes.
  • Listen to the individual’s communication device that relays the individual’s words in a computerized voice.

Training Resources

Hospitality employees are responsible for delivering exemplary service to all guests.  The service provided to guests with disabilities is no different.  It is important to accurately understand their unique needs and desire for independence.  The Educational Institute video, Enabling Independence: Service for Guests with Disabilities highlights the unique needs of guests with various disabilities and identifies how lodging employees can accommodate their desire for independence. It also covers expanded ADA requirements regarding power-driven mobility devices, service animals, and practical steps you can take to ensure the safety and satisfaction of guests with disabilities.  For additional information, visit

New Accessibility Requirements for Swimming Pools, Wading Pools and Spas

The 2010 Standards establish minimum accessibility requirements for swimming pools, wading pools, and spas that are intended to ensure a general level of usability of these elements by individuals with disabilities.  By March 15, 2012, most owners and operators will have to retrofit existing pools and spas with a pool lift or some other means of accessible entry unless it is not readily achievable for them to do so.

The 2010 Standards contain several requirements for pool lifts, including seat height and width; a footrest and armrest; independent operation; controls and operating mechanisms; and lifting capacity.  The detailed technical requirements for pool lifts are set forth in Section 1009 of the 2010 Standards (