Ensuring accessibility of hotels to the deaf

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One of the questions deaf people ask is what happens when you're deaf and you go to a hotel? Hearing people can take an alarm clock or get a wake-up call. What do you do...?

In USA, according to ADA, the hotel is supposed to provide accomidations to Deaf and H.O.H. individuals. Such accommodations may include:

  • Alarm clock
  • Smoke alarm
  • Telephone signaler
  • Closed-caption decoder
  • TTY
  • Doorbell notification

Some people, such as David James, rely upon themselves rather than try to invoke ADA:
"I figure that I can do that, and _maybe_ the hotel will have its act together and have some or even all of that stuff in working order waiting for me -- or I can skip the long-distance hassling and the hassling-upon-arrival ("...but you _promised_ you'd have a strobe alarm clock...") and take along my trusty plug-in timer, and it _will_ be there in working order when I need it."

However, this has the following drawbacks:

  • The deaf person has to carry the special equipment and if he otherwise travels lightly, the special equipment may significantly increase his luggage weight.
  • The special equipment would have to be hand-carried on the airplane instead of other goods, more useful in the cabin - otherwise there'll be risk of lost or misplaced baggage.
  • Customer's provided smoke alarms may not be reliable in strange hotels.
Therefore, it is recommended that deaf people invoke their ADA rights when placing a hotel reservation, as detailed in the following.

Ensuring that the hotel accommodates you

In the following I am sharing with you a little trick that I have learned. I'm in a job that requires me to spend about two nights a week in a hotel and I have become reasonably competent at getting the adaptive equipment I want.

When I make the hotel reservations, I state very clearly what I expect. These expectation are: signal alert system of some type (and I usually name the more common ones) a TTY, both in my room and at the front desk, and closed-caption decoder(s) for the TV(s). I guarantee the room to my credit card and state that because the room is guarenteed, I expect the equipment to be set up prior to my arrival.

I follow this up with a fax to the hotel manager stating exactly the same thing and include a small summary of the ADA requirements. The later has *always* assured a reaction. I often get phone calls back saying "We don't have the equipment..." If I have the option, I can then move my reservation to another hotel, or if I have to use them, I can apply pressure as needed. Most of the time, I'm assured at least that the equipment is there.

I generally try to choose chains that have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, such as the Embassy Suites, Hampton Inns, Drury Inns and the like. They are much more apt to have the equipment and have it installed by my arrival. If they do not, mere mention of the failure to attend to my faxed communication (a copy of which I carry in my planner) results in having my room charges waived.

I have been in this job for three years. The first year, about 30% of my room nights were free. This past tweleve months, I have only had two hotels fail, and both were merely failures to set the eqipment up.

P.S.: this is *not* an ADA requirement. I consider it a customer service requirement and am *very careful* to point out the difference. The conversation goes like this, "I'm very thankful that you have made the equipment for my room available to me as required by the ADA. May I suggest, though, that by not setting the equipment up prior to my arrival, you have left my room unprepared. It is comparable to not making the bed before the guest checks in, or wating until the guest asks before you put a TV in the room." I find this approach takes some of the resentment off and managers understand the point much better than if I had said, "You miserable lousy hearing person you are violating my federally protected rights under 504, ADA, BFD and XYZ by not having full valet service ..." you get my point.

If you don't get satisfaction, write to the hotel chain owner and lay out the issues. I usually get a response quite quickly.

One last suggestion... Please DO NOT patronize Super 8 hotels. I have been burned there twice in two years, in spite of the foregoing. They are quite willing to go to court and I don't have time for that. It is much easier to "boycott" they and encourage my friends to do so also. There are a lot of good places to stay, so why bother!

If anyone is interested in the text of the fax I send or the ADA summary I use, e-mail me privately and I will send it to you.

(Contributed by Steve Hamerdinger at 23 Nov 1995.)

Last update date: 
1995 Dec 30