Does Filing an ADA Complaint Really Work?


onaeg news agency [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]I get a lot of e-mails about access failures, and unfortunately in this day and age these things still happen. Why? Well part of the reason is that even though we have access laws on the books, we don’t have any entity that goes around and inspects facilities for compliance. And even if we did, there are some things – like providing reasonable accommodations – that you really can’t inspect.

So what do you do if a hotel doesn’t block an accessible room upon reservation, or if they have a standard airport shuttle but they can’t — or won’t — provide wheelchair-accessible airport transfers?

First and foremost, work your way up the chain of command until you get to to the manager, and make sure that the manager understands that these things are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In most cases you’ll probably get satisfaction, but if you don’t, then it’s time to move on to the next level. You need to file an ADA complaint.

Filing one is easy – it only takes a few minutes and you can do it online.

But most people don’t truly understand what happens after that. It’s not like they immediately slap a big fine on the corporation that wronged you. To be honest, it’s a process.

After a complaint is filed, it’s evaluated to determine if the Department of Justice (DOJ) will move forward with it or close the case. And although there’s no magical formula to determine if the DOJ will proceed, it helps to submit a concise, well documented complaint. But even then, there are factors beyond your control, so don’t despair if you receive notification that your case has been closed without any action taken.

Even though you don’t end up seeing it, your complaint will work to effect change.


Well the DOJ keeps track of all complaints, and if they see an increase in a certain type of complaint, then they will act on that complaint type. And then the issue will most likely be addressed and settled. “So what?”, you are probably thinking. “They didn’t act on my complaint and my original issue still hasn’t been addressed”.

True, but in the hospitality industry, once one company gets called on the carpet for an ADA violation, that news spreads like wildfire. Other hoteliers don’t want the same thing to happen to them, so they do access audits to see if there are any hidden problems. And if they find any, they fix them. They also do trainings about access issues and they teach their employees how to resolve access complaints. And access improves.

Like I said, it is a process, but it’s what we have to work with. So in the end the choice is yours. You can do nothing, which won’t effect any change; or you can file an ADA complaint, which may help make things more accessible in the future. I vote for the latter, and hope you will too.

And, just in case you need it, here’s a link to file an ADA complaint.