The hotel industry is caught between a rock and a hard place. Through the diligent and timely work of the AH&LA and other lobbying groups, the industry has sought clarity and fairness over a new ADA-related regulation requiring hotel pools to install permanent swimming pool lifts. At the same time, a cabal of advocacy groups for disabled Americans has wrongly and crassly charged the hotel business with not caring about the 50 million people with accessibility issues.
These organizations are dead wrong about the hotel industry not being responsive to the needs of the disabled. Our entire industry is about hospitality, and hotel owners, operators and employees get into this business because they want to serve others. Our track record is stellar in providing welcoming accommodations, nourishing food and drink, and as needed, empathy and assistance when guests are in distress.
To say otherwise—which is what these groups claim—is mere opportunism and another symptom of the decisive kind of politics that's wrenching the fabric of American life. The AH&LA and hotel chains and individual properties may be hesitant to make these kinds of statements, but I'm not. Go ahead and picket my office or attempt some boycott aimed solely at media coverage. I'll continue to uncover you as the opportunists you are. The proof of this statement is the timing of these groups' activities. I haven't heard any of them complaining about the lack of permanent pool lifts at hotel pools until the issue became one debated in the media. You can always count on advocacy groups to raise a stink when a camera or reporter is nearby.
Of course, this is not to say the issue these groups hide behind—the ability of disabled guests to use swimming pools and other recreational amenities at hotels—is not important. But for the past year, the AH&LA has been working tirelessly to solve the issue—not necessarily to block the regulations but to clarify their exact intent and to urge a more realistic timetable for implementation.
These good-faith efforts were met with incendiary press releases, social media campaigns and then two weeks ago, picketing of AH&LA headquarters in Washington. There's probably not much more AH&LA or the rest of the industry can do to tamp down this media-driven hysteria, except to continue to act with integrity and vigilance to make sure the needs of both the industry and your guests are met. I know that's what the AH&LA and all of us will do.