In a groundbreaking settlement, the Department of Justice and Hilton Worldwide negotiated a far-reaching agreement to bring approximately 900 Hilton-branded hotels across the United States into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The deal requires all Hilton Worldwide-owned and joint-venture hotels to modify their online reservation systems to let customers with disabilities select and reserve accessible rooms, such as those that are suited for wheelchairs. All large U.S. hotels built after 1993 are required to offer wheelchair-friendly rooms; most hotels will let customers request — but not book — an accessible room. Hilton is the first hotel required to specifically modify the way customers with disabilities reserve rooms.
Like other large hotel chains, Hilton must also ensure its online reservations system is accessible to people who use assistive technologies to navigate a computer, such as a screen reader. Additionally Hilton Worldwide will conduct surveys at franchised or independently managed hotels to ensure they comply with the ADA, and hire an ADA consultant to monitor these hotels.
This is the first settlement of its kind involving a franchisor. In addition to the Hilton brand, Hilton Worldwide owns, operates, or franchises out hotels under such brands as Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn and the Waldorf-Astoria. The Justice Department is responsible for ensuring ADA compliance for private sector businesses that operate in the public space, such as hotels and restaurants.
The Justice Department began an investigation into Hilton Worldwide for what it calls “a pattern and practice of violations of the ADA by its owned, managed, joint venture and franchised hotels.” Hilton Worldwide has denied the allegations, but agreed to settle to avoid ongoing litigation.
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