Hotel accessibility ruled to apply to the digital realm [Credit : Lisa Folios, pexels.com ]
(SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.) — Luxury property The Meridian Hotel San Francisco has been sued for alleged failure to disclose details around disabled accessibility on its booking website, one of a series of disability civil rights-related lawsuits in the past few months.
The plaintiff, Samuel Love, supported by the Center for Disability Access, filed a complaint against Meridian Hotel owner CHSP TRS San Francisco LLC on Oct. 15 alleging its online booking process obscures information necessary for him to assess his ability to safely stay in the room and use facilities.
Love is a paraplegic with limited mobility who lives in California. He alleges that the reservation process does not provide sufficient details about room dimensions, layout, and potential barriers for disabled guests to make decisions, especially when images shown online are only representative.
The charges against The Meridian Hotel include violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Unruh Civil Rights Act (UCRA) established in 1959. The ADA considers it an act of discrimination to “fail to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures” when modifications are necessary for a person with disabilities to use the good or service. Under the UCRA, “persons with disabilities are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever within the jurisdiction of the State of California.” The plaintiff seeks compliance with the ADA and UCRA compliance, damages in the amount of $4,000 per offense under the UCRA, and reimbursement of legal fees.
The Center for Disability Access is a law firm based in San Diego “whose staff, attorneys, investigators, and consultants are committed to the principles contained within the ADA” according to their website. The firm operates as a division of Potter Handy LLC, and specializes in representing clients with disabilities in complaints against businesses who do not meet accessibility standards.
Potter Handy was mentioned in NBC news reporting on the rise of disability lawsuits in San Diego during the pandemic, due to their representation of a client who sued multiple small businesses and San Diego city for alleged non-compliance. In response to criticism raised that these lawsuits were predatory to local businesses already suffering from the pandemic economic slowdown, Russel Handy, founder of Potter Handy disagreed.
“If a business is open and actively discriminating against persons with disabilities, we see no reason that a law-breaking business would get a pass to discriminate or mistreat persons with disabilities, merely because our entire society is struggling with the effect of a global pandemic,” Handy told NBC in an April interview, adding that businesses have had years to comply and resources available to abide by regulations.
The Meridian did not return calls from The Click seeking comment on the lawsuit.
Businesses in California continue to be hit hard during the pandemic. In San Francisco, two Hilton luxury properties recently closed down and are now awaiting mortgage relief, one of many cases of the county’s 23% hotel delinquent payment rate.
The issue of Title III of ADA applying to equal access through web and mobile business sites as well as physical sites came to light last year when The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by Domino’s Pizza to contest a previous ADA lawsuit. The lower Ninth U.S. Circuit Court ruling held that the law “applies to the services of a place of public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation.”