Summer will be here before you know it, and many of us are making our travel plans already. Hotel stays can be a major pain when you’re deaf or hard-of-hearing. Most of us have created accessible homes. We’ve got our captioned televisions, our accommodated phones with amplifiers, Captel, TTY or a VP. We might have a vibrating alarm clock, and a fire alarm that flashes lights to wake us up when we’re sleeping. Our front doors might flicker lights when people knock, or when the doorbell rings. All of these things give us a sense of security and comfort in our homes.
We can’t help but feel a bit uneasy staying in a large hotel without the comforts we’re used to. AND we shouldn’t have to stay in hotels that don’t accommodate us. The ADA is about accessibility. That means whatever a hotel provides for its regular patrons, it must provide an equally accessible alternative for YOU.
I’ve found many hotels aren’t aware of the law, and it’s crazy since the ADA was passed in 1990! Here’s a business brief you can use to help make hotels aware of their responsibility to accommodate deaf/HH/Deaf people the next time you make hotel reservations. ADA Hotel Business Brief I’ve made a short list of requirements copied directly from the Business Brief.
- TTY on request for use in the room
- Closed Captioning on TV’s
- Visual alarms connected to the buildings emergency system
- Visual notification devices in guest rooms to alert persons with hearing impairments to incoming telephone calls and door knocks or bells.
Electrical outlets to facilitate the use of text telephones.
- They may not deny a service Hearing dog from staying in a room
- Though it doesn’t specifically mention alarm clock, because alarms are typically provided to all guests and the law is about equal access, a vibrating alarm clock is a reasonable request. Many hotels do include them in their deaf kits. They are not expensive.
One thing you need to be aware of is that the ADA does not apply to smaller bed and breakfast type inns with less than five rooms. While it’s entirely possible an innkeeper may be willing to accommodate you, he or she doesn’t have to. I ran into this up in Canada once. Though the B&B had more than five rooms, I didn’t know their laws in Canada. I was surprised to find the TV wasn’t captioned. The innkeeper did offer to buy a used TV that night, so I could watch it for my stay, but I told him not to. I watch so little TV. I had several books and was fine. I thought it nice that he was willing to go out of his way to accommodate me.
You will run into unfortunate situations. Last spring I stayed at the Hilton in Albuquerque, NM at 1901 University Boulevard NE. I was invited as the guest of a friend who was staying as a guest of her employer. In other words, the room was registered under her employer’s name who wasn’t staying in the room.
It was awful. The hotel had bought these brand new HDTV’s and couldn’t get the captioning to work. For four nights in a row they kept sending the handyman up to try to get it to work. Each day they promised they would get it to work that night and then failed. My friend and I wanted to watch a movie. We offered to switch rooms, but were told ALL the TV’s in the hotel were the same. On the last night, the janitor/handyman finally admitted the captioning had been disabled throughout the hotel because “other” hotel patrons had complained it was tempermental–coming on when they hadn’t turned it on. Before we checked out I complained to the manager, telling him the ADA required captioned TV’s in hotels. I couldn’t believe his final comment. He said, “Well ma’am, the ADA only says I have to provide captioned TV’s, NOT that I have to know how to operate them.”
I complained to the Hilton headquarters later because of their manager’s attitude, but there was no follow-up on their part that I know of. I’m sure it was because they had no record I had even stayed there, since I was the guest of a non-paying guest. I didn’t bother with it further. What was the point? I never paid anything for the room in the first place. My friend’s boss paid. All I wanted was for the situation to be fixed, which the manager said he intended to do. He was WRONG because he wasn’t following the spirit of the law. I’m sure his attitude will come back to bite him another time.
The intent of the law is equal access. Remember that. If the manager knew how to operate the televisions for his regular patrons, then he should have known how to operate the captioning on his HDTV’s, or at least have had someone in-house who could. There was no need to spell out in black and white that the manager needed to know how to operate the equipment he provided. Equal access means that he provides the same services to us that he provides to his hearing patrons.
In the future when making reservations I do intend to ask if the hotel has HDTV and IF they know how to operate the captioning.
One final point, all of your accommodations should be set up in advance when you make your reservations. Ask for the accommodations then, not when you get there, so they have time to prepare. Often times when you check in, the desk staff doesn’t know where the “deaf kit” is kept. Then they end up looking all over the place, and can’t find it. Also ask for your accommodations in an email, This way you’ll have it in writing. Before you leave, remind them again. Additionally– It may sound picky, but ask that your alarm clock be plugged in, your amplifier/TTY be set up in your room, and the TV be set so the captions are on, etc. Other hotel patrons don’t have to plug everything in when they arrive and you shouldn’t have to either. Remember– Equal Access. You’re paying a lot of money, and deserve equal treatment.
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