I get a lot of feedback from my readers, and a good chunk of it pertains to what I call “access shortfalls”. In most cases the incident usually involves a hotel or other travel related business that failed to provide appropriate access. And although the degree of severity varies from case to case, my advice is usually the same; “File a complaint with the Depart of Justice (DOJ) for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Unfortunately that sage advice is usually met with a deafening silence.
Some people don’t want to take the time to do it, some people think it’s too difficult to do, and some people think that it won’t make a difference. So in an effort to correct these inaccurate assumptions, I’d like to address each one of them individually.
“I don’t want to take the time to do it”
This one baffles me the most, as usually the person in question has spent a great deal of time relating their saga to me. It would probably take less time to file an official complaint. And here’s the kicker — I’m not in a position to effect change, but the DOJ is, so why not complain to someone who may be able to prevent this from happening again?
“It’s too difficult to do”
Actually it’s very easy to do. All you have to do complete this form, then mail, fax or e-mail it to the DOJ. Be sure to include any additional documentation or photos that help support your case.
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section – NYAV
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
And if you have any questions, just call the ADA Hotline at (800) 514-0301. Again, it’s really easy to do.
”It Won’t Make a Difference”
Granted, the DOJ doesn’t have the personnel to investigate every case, but they have been known to refer people to mediation or even consider specific complaints for litigation. In fact, the latter was the direct result of Jeffrey Crockett’s complaint about his experience with the Days Inn in Tulsa.
Unfortunately the property refused to accommodate Crockett’s service animal because of their “no pets” policy. Because the offense was so egregious, the DOJ felt they needed to make an example of the Days Inn. And that’s exactly what they did.
Now most cases like this never make it to court, but a settlement is just as good. The DOJ just released the consent decree in this action earlier this week, and the end result is pretty proactive. The Days Inn franchise owner must pay Mr. Crockett $5000 in damages, and he also has to implement a new training program so all of his employees know how to handle guests with service animals. And of course the DOJ will monitor things, just to make sure the defendant is in full compliance of the settlement agreement.
And I have a feeling this action will also effect other lodging chains, as nobody wants the DOJ on their case. I expect to see a rash of memos and a lot more training out there in the near future; and as a result service animals will most likely be more readily accommodated.
So in the end, you can really make a difference on a large scale. And it doesn’t take much time. Even better, free help from the DOJ is available if you have any questions. So consider following through the next time things aren’t as accessible as they should be. It really is the only way to effect change.