By: Peter A. Stratton and Mark Jackson, Steven Winter Associates, Inc.

Hospitality facilities which were in existence prior to January 26, 1992 are not exempt from the ADA. They are not “grandfathered” as often thought; they are covered. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), existing hospitality facilities, such as hotels, motels, inns, and resorts, have an ongoing obligation to remove architectural barriers to access in their facilities, where it’s “readily achievable” to do so, regardless of the age of the facility or whether it has undergone an alteration. Existing businesses which neglect their barrier removal obligations are not in compliance with the ADA and are subject to complaints and risk litigation.

Readily achievable barrier removal is defined by the ADA as “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.” What is readily achievable is determined “case-by-case” with consideration given to such items as the nature and cost of the barrier removal, the overall financial resources and size of the business, the number of employees, legitimate safety requirements, and the effect on the businesses expenses and resources.

When identifying barriers to access, it is important for businesses to understand that just because a ramp may exist at a building entrance does not necessarily mean that barrier removal obligations have been met. For compliance to be achieved, the ramp must meet strict accessibility criteria, including a running slope of no more than 8.33 percent, 60-inch-long level landings at the top and bottom of the ramp and handrails at the right height, among other features. Deviating from the criteria is only permitted when it is technically infeasible to fully comply. Even then, any deviation is subject to limits, which are clarified in the design standards referenced by the ADA.

On March 15, 2012, updated ADA regulations and new design standards became mandatory. They apply to features not previously covered by the ADA, including pools, spas, saunas, golfing and boating facilities, play areas, among others. As part of barrier removal obligations, hospitality businesses are required to make these features accessible, regardless of any planned alterations. The plan for removing barriers to these newly covered existing features must have been developed by March 15, 2012.

The Accessibility Compliance and Consulting Group at Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (SWA) is provides ADA compliance consulting to clients nationwide To learn more about SWA’s accessibility compliance consulting services, visit, click on Services, then Accessibility Compliance. Or, contact Peter A. Stratton, Director of Accessibility Compliance and Consulting at 203-857-0200 ext.217;

About Steven Winter Associates, Inc.
Steven Winter Associates, Inc. provides research, consulting and advisory services to improve commercial, residential and multifamily built environments for private and public sector clients. We specialize in energy, sustainability and accessibility consulting as well as certification, research & development and compliance services. Our engineers and architects have led the way since 1972 in the development of best practices to achieve high performance buildings. As a matter of course, we collaborate with our clients to produce the most cost-effective and innovative solutions. For more information, visit


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