Ms. Rose

ADA Compliance

ADA Sensitivity Issues

By Clara Rose, President & Creative Director, Creative Alliance

Discrimination - especially subtle discrimination - continues to thrive. It is the everyday stereotypes and assumptions about our differences that are the basis for most unintentional discrimination and the lack of training about sensitivity issues that can result in these inadvertent offenses.

The broad mandate for equal access by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), allows it to affect every aspect of our society. Restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools and daycare centers; are all considered a place of Public Accommodation and therefore are covered under the ADA.

In the hospitality industry, which is considered a public accommodation by the ADA, this includes most of the accommodations, recreational facilities and amenities… as well as the daily practices that the businesses are comprised of.

For Americans with different abilities, equal access means simply being able to use, enjoy and participate in the everyday aspects of life, including working, commerce and leisure activities. In other words, can those with different abilities access the entire property - to use and enjoy it -or will they feel excluded? Exclusion is a sensitivity issue.

With an estimated 18% of the American population having an impairment that offers them protection under the ADA, the hospitality industry has a vested interest in understanding and meeting the needs of that significant number of potential customers.

Where to start

An individual with a disability wants the same respect and dignity offered any other person. They do not interpret behaviors and actions differently; personal attention and proximity are universal messages. They can sense if the other person is comfortable in their presence; is focused on them, not the disability, and is willing to extend the same courtesies that they would extend to those who are not disabled.

It is easy to focus on the requirements and rules for public accommodations instead of the needs of the individuals that the ADA was written for. The first step to an atmosphere of sensitivity is to understanding the usage of "people first" language.

If you look beyond the disability, you'll see an individual whose life is more similar to yours then it is different. Their different ability is one small fact about the person; just like eye color, hair color or wearing glasses. They are moms, dads, brothers, sisters, athletes, leaders, employees and employers; who want to live and enjoy their lives.

Most persons with different abilities are not sick or fragile and are capable of being fully independent, productive members of society. Focusing on the person rather than the disability will help employees to relax and act naturally. Common expressions such as "see you later" or "let's run over there" are perfectly acceptable and should not cause embarrassment.

To simplify this process, let's compartmentalize. ADA sensitivity falls into two main categories: the physical issues and communication.

Physical Issues

Some physical issues are obvious; such as, can the individual with different abilities gain access to the facility and all the amenities for enjoyment and participation. Poor access; or a lack of access, that results in exclusion is frustrating for the individual and will be seen as a lack of sensitivity on the part of the property or business.

Hospitality room configurations can also be a source of inconvenience for those with different abilities. Adequate turning radiuses are required to maneuver comfortably and appropriately placed light switches, thermostats and television remotes are greatly appreciated. A great way to ensure your property is "sensitive" is to rent a wheelchair and a set of crutches, and then assign a staff member to spend the day using these mobility devices. The experience gives valuable insights and new perspectives.

Dignity issue may not be as apparent but often have a greater impact on those with different abilities. We all have the same basic needs; a drink of water, the restroom or the use of a telephone. Proper navigational signage should be displayed and staff members should be aware of the locations of ADA amenities and services that are available. Guests with different abilities expect equal treatment, not special treatment.

Communication Issues

From a sensitivity stand point, staff training is the key component to success. Any staff members that come into contact with the guests… need to have sensitivity training. A good sensitivity training program will cover effective means of communicating and provide useful tools for doing so.

Reception and greetings are an important part of the hospitality industry; the very name indicates that one can expect its employees to be hospitable. When communicating with a person that has different abilities, the same rules of acceptable conduct apply… only the means of communicating may differ.

For example; the person who is visually impaired will need verbal cues to replace common body language and gestures, since more than 50% of communication is nonverbal facial expression and body language. For instance: "I am Jane Doe, on my right is John Smith." This gives them a point of reference for John's location. Employees must be sure to announce movement from one place to another and to indicate in advance to whom they are speaking. It is also a good idea for them to make it clear when the conversation has concluded.

A hearing impaired guest might read lips or may request an interpreter and a visually impaired guest could use audio or Braille literature to gain information but the ultimate goal is effective communication.

Assisting persons with different abilities will vary depending on their individual communication needs but some things are universal.

  • Employees should always make eye contact and speak directly to the person, even if they are visually or hearing impaired.
  • If they are part of a group, the employee should be sure to include them in the greeting in the same manner as the rest of the group.
  • Common sense plus common courtesy, equals proper etiquette and good customer service.

Communication is the foundation of interaction in daily life. People convey to those around them - their intentions, needs and desires - all through some form of visual or verbal communication. In work interactions, it is important for employees to be aware of how visual and verbal communications are perceived. A person's self-image is strongly tied to the words used by others to describe them. Employees must be careful, words and actions can pack a punch.

How something said is as important as what was said. The language used when talking to - or about - a person with a different ability, conveys how one feels about disabilities. Common courtesy dictates that all individuals deserve equal treatment, regardless of their abilities.

Some terms are unacceptable and should be avoided when referring to people with different abilities because the terms have negative connotations. Avoid using terms or phrases that are offensive or derogatory, remember, the individual is a person that just happens to have a disability.

Unacceptable terms:

  • Handicap / Handicapped
  • Cripple / Special
  • Victim
  • Deaf and Dumb or Mute
  • Afflicted With / Suffers From
  • Birth Defect
  • Spastic / Retarded
  • Wheelchair Confined / Bound

Preferred ADA friendly terms reflect a positive attitude in portraying disabilities and those individuals with different abilities. People first language describes what a person HAS, not what a person IS. It always puts the person before the disability.

Preferred terms:

  • Disability / Disabled
  • Physically Disabled
  • Blind / Visually Impaired
  • Amputation / Amputee
  • Developmental Disability
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Spina Bifida
  • Paraplegic / Quadriplegic

Using people first language can influence society's views and treatment of people with different abilities. Mark Twain said: "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug."

The next step

As with most desired change, proactive planning is the prudent course of action. Sensitivity training is available from a number of sources but we do invite you to consider the ADAF rating system, which offers a sensitivity training program.

As the hospitality industry moves toward compliance with the new ADA regulations, ADAF is working hard to offer tools to facilitate these improvements, while changing attitudes about the treatment of those with different abilities. We invite you to join us in making a difference.

Clara Rose is the founder of Creative Alliance and co-founder of Nationwide Compliance Alliance. She believes that business success is not accidental, merely the implementation of a sound strategy and the correct tools. Ms. Rose finds great reward in equipping entrepreneurs and business owners with the tools and pieces for business success. As a professional speaker, trainer and author; Clara works with teams to help them create a culture of understanding and sensitivity in the workplace and equips professionals with tools and insights. Additionally, she speaks and writes about the different forms of communication that are an integral part of business life with Customers, Colleagues and Co-workers. Ms. Rose can be contacted at 941-284-8640 or Clara@ClaraRose.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
General Search:

OCTOBER: Revenue Management: Technology and Big Data

Gary Isenberg

Hotel room night inventory is the hotel industry’s most precious commodity. Hotel revenue management has evolved into a complex and fragmented process. Today’s onsite revenue manager is influenced greatly by four competing forces, each armed with their own set of revenue goals and objectives -- as if there are virtually four individual revenue managers, each with its own distinct interests. So many divergent purposes oftentimes leading to conflicts that, if left unchecked, can significantly damper hotel revenues and profits. READ MORE

Jon Higbie

For years, hotels have housed their Revenue Management systems on their premises. This was possible because data sets were huge but manageable, and required large but not overwhelming amounts of computing power. However, these on-premise systems are a thing of the past. In the era of Big Data, the cost of building and maintaining an extensive computing infrastructure is incredibly expensive. The solution – cloud computing. The cloud allows hotels to create innovative Revenue Management applications that deliver revenue uplift and customized guest experiences. Without the cloud, hotels risk remaining handcuffed to their current Revenue Management solutions – and falling behind competitors. READ MORE

Jenna Smith

You do not have to be a hospitality professional to recognize the influx and impact of new technologies in the hotel industry. Guests are becoming familiar with using virtual room keys on their smartphones to check in, and online resources like review sites and online travel agencies (OTAs) continue to shape the way consumers make decisions and book rooms. Behind the scenes, sales and marketing professionals are using new tools to communicate with guests, enhance operational efficiencies, and improve service by addressing guests’ needs and solving problems quickly and with a minimum of disruption. READ MORE

Yatish Nathraj

Technology is becoming an ever more growing part of the hospitality industry and it has helped us increase efficiency for guest check-inn, simplified the night audit process and now has the opportunity to increase our revenue production. These systems need hands on calibration to ensure they are optimized for your operations. As a manager you need to understand how these systems work and what kind of return on investment your business is getting. Although some of these systems maybe mistaken as a “set it and forget it” product, these highly sophisticated tools need local expert like you and your team to analysis the data it gives you and input new data requirements. READ MORE

Coming Up In The November Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Architecture & Design: Authentic, Interactive and Immersive
If there is one dominant trend in the field of hotel architecture and design, it’s that travelers are demanding authentic, immersive and interactive experiences. This is especially true for Millennials but Baby Boomers are seeking out meaningful experiences as well. As a result, the development of immersive travel experiences - winery resorts, culinary resorts, resorts geared toward specific sports enthusiasts - will continue to expand. Another kind of immersive experience is an urban resort – one that provides all the elements you'd expect in a luxury resort, but urbanized. The urban resort hotel is designed as a staging area where the city itself provides all the amenities, and the hotel functions as a kind of sophisticated concierge service. Another trend is a re-thinking of the hotel lobby, which has evolved into an active social hub with flexible spaces for work and play, featuring cafe?s, bars, libraries, computer stations, game rooms, and more. The goal is to make this area as interactive as possible and to bring people together, making the space less of a traditional hotel lobby and more of a contemporary gathering place. This emphasis on the lobby has also had an associated effect on the size of hotel rooms – they are getting smaller. Since most activities are designed to take place in the lobby, there is less time spent in rooms which justifies their smaller design. Finally, the wellness and ecology movements are also having a major impact on design. The industry is actively adopting standards so that new structures are not only environmentally sustainable, but also promote optimum health and well- being for the travelers who will inhabit them. These are a few of the current trends in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.