Dispersion. The 2010 Standards, in section 224.5, set scoping requirements for dispersion in facilities covered by the transient lodging provisions. This section covers guest rooms with mobility features and guest rooms with communication features and applies in new construction and alterations. The primary requirement is to provide choices of types of guest rooms, number of beds, and other amenities comparable to the choices provided to other guests. An advisory in section 224.5 provides guidance that “factors to be considered in providing an equivalent range of options may include, but are not limited to, room size, bed size, cost, view, bathroom fixtures such as hot tubs and spas, smoking and nonsmoking, and the number of rooms provided.”
Commenters asked the Department to clarify what is meant by various terms used in section 224.5 such as “classes,” “types,” “options,” and “amenities.” Other commenters asked the Department to clarify and simplify the dispersion requirements set forth in section 224.5 of the 2010 Standards, in particular the scope of the term “amenities.” One commenter expressed concern that views, if considered an amenity, would further complicate room categories and force owners and operators to make an educated guess. Other commenters stated that views should only be a dispersion criteria if view is a factor for pricing room rates.
These terms are not to be considered terms of art, but should be used as in their normal course. For example, “class” is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a division by quality.” “Type” is defined as “a group of * * * things that share common traits or characteristics distinguishing them as an identifiable group or class.” Accordingly, these terms are not intended to convey different concepts, but are used as synonyms. In the 2010 Standards, section 224.5 and its advisory require dispersion in such a varied range of hotels and lodging facilities that the Department believes that the chosen terms are appropriate to convey what is intended. Dispersion required by this section is not “one size fits all” and it is imperative that each covered entity consider its individual circumstance as it applies this requirement. For example, a facility would consider view as an amenity if some rooms faced mountains, a beach, a lake, or other scenery that was considered to be a premium. A facility where view was not marketed or requested by guests would not factor the view as an amenity for purposes of meeting the dispersion requirement.
Section 224.5 of the 2010 Standards requires that guest rooms with mobility features and guest rooms with communication features “shall be dispersed among the various classes of guest rooms, and shall provide choices of types of guest rooms, number of beds, and other amenities comparable to the choices provided to other guests. When the minimum number of guest rooms required is not sufficient to allow for complete dispersion, guest rooms shall be dispersed in the following priority: guest room type, number of beds and amenities.”
This general dispersion requirement is intended to effectuate Congress’ directive that a percentage of each class of hotel rooms is to be fully accessible to persons with disabilities. See H.R. Rep. No. 101‒485 (II) at 391. Accordingly, the promise of the ADA in this instance is that persons with disabilities will have an equal opportunity to benefit from the various options available to hotel guests without disabilities, from single occupancy guest rooms with limited features (and accompanying limited price tags) to luxury suites with lavish features and choices. The inclusion of section 224.5 of the 2010 Standards is not new. Substantially similar language is contained in section 9.1.4 of the 1991 Standards.
Commenters raised concerns that the factors included in the advisory to section 224.5 of the 2010 Standards have been expanded. The advisory provides: “[f]actors to be considered in providing an equivalent range of options may include, but are not limited to, room size, bed size, cost, view, bathroom fixtures such as hot tubs and spas, smoking and nonsmoking, and the number of rooms provided.”
As previously discussed, the advisory materials provided in the 2010 Standards are meant to be illustrative and do not set out specific requirements. In this particular instance, the advisory materials for section 224.5 set out some of the common types of amenities found at transient lodging facilities, and include common sense concepts such as view, bathroom fixtures, and smoking status. The intention of these factors is to indicate to the hospitality industry the sorts of considerations that the Department, in its enforcement efforts since the enactment of the ADA, has considered as amenities that should be made available to persons with disabilities, just as they are made available to guests without disabilities.
Commenters offered several suggestions for addressing dispersion. One option included the flexibility to use an equivalent facilitation option similar to that provided in section 9.1.4(2) of the 1991 Standards.
The 2010 Standards eliminated all specific references to equivalent facilitation. Since Congress made it clear that each class of hotel room is to be available to individuals with disabilities, the Department declines to adopt such a specific limitation in favor of the specific requirement for new construction and alterations found in section 224.5 of the 2010 Standards.
In considering the comments of the hospitality industry from the ANPRM and the Department’s enforcement efforts in this area, the Department sought comment in the NPRM on whether the dispersion requirements should be applied proportionally, or whether the requirements of section 224.5 of the 2010 Standards would be complied with if access to at least one guest room of each type were to be provided.
One commenter expressed concern about requiring different guest room types to be proportionally represented in the accessible guest room pool as opposed to just having each type represented. Some commenters also expressed concern about accessible guest rooms created in pre−1993 facilities and they requested that such accessible guest rooms be safe harbored just as they are safe harbored under the 1991 Standards. In addition, one commenter requested that the proposed dispersion requirements in section 224.5 of the 2010 Standards not be applied to pre−1993 facilities even when they are altered. Some commenters also offered a suggestion for limitations to the dispersion requirements as an alternative to safe harboring pre−1993 facilities. The suggestion included: (1) Guest rooms’ interior or exterior footprints may remain unchanged in order to meet the dispersion requirements; (2) Dispersion should only be required among the types of rooms affected by an alteration; and (3) Subject to (1) and (2) above and technical feasibility, a facility would need to provide only one guest room in each guest room type such as single, double and suites. One commenter requested an exception to the dispersion criteria that applies to both existing and new multi-story timeshare facilities. This requested exception waives dispersion based on views to the extent that up to eight units may be vertically stacked in a single location.
Section 224.1.1 of the 2010 Standards sets scoping requirements for alterations to transient lodging guest rooms. The advisory to section 224.1.1 further explains that compliance with 224.5 is more likely to be achieved if all of the accessible guest rooms are not provided in the same area of the facility, when accessible guest rooms are added as a result of subsequent alterations.
Some commenters requested a specific exemption for small hotels of 300 or fewer guest rooms from dispersion regarding smoking rooms. The ADA requires that individuals with disabilities be provided with the same range of options as persons without disabilities, and, therefore, the Department declines to add such an exemption. It is noted, however, that the existence of this language in the advisory does not require a place of transient lodging that does not offer smoking guest rooms at its facility to do so only for individuals with disabilities.