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More than 30 years after the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), institutional and commercial facilities continue to struggle to comply with the act’s requirements for accessibility to buildings for all. Now, ADA enforcement has become the central element in a Supreme Court case that is likely to affect one particular segment of commercial facilities.
The Supreme Court recently took up a case that could curtail the crusade of Deborah Laufer, a disability rights campaigner who has filed hundreds of federal lawsuits claiming that hotels fail to disclose accessibility information on their websites, according to NBC News.
The court agreed to hear an appeal brought by Acheson Hotels, which operates the Coast Village Inn and Cottages in Maine, that argues Laufer does not have legal standing to bring the cases under the ADA because she has no intention of staying at the hotels in question. To have standing, plaintiffs traditionally have to show they have suffered an injury, and Acheson says Laufer has failed to demonstrate that.
Laufer, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, sued in 2020, saying the hotel's website did not identify accessible rooms and failed to provide other relevant information.
Acheson's lawyers say Laufer has filed more than 600 lawsuits targeting small hotels and bed and breakfasts and that the cost of litigating a case can put defendants into bankruptcy. Laufer's lawyers counter that the language of the ADA allows for anyone who is disabled and therefore subject to discrimination on that basis to sue if an entity has violated the law.
The lawyers said hotels rarely comply with the ADA without being put on notice, and because the law does not impose damages, only Laufer and some other self-appointed testers regularly seek to enforce it.
"Without civil rights advocates such as this plaintiff, there would be no enforcement of the ADA," the lawyers wrote in court papers.
Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management.
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