Is it Unethical to Book an ADA Hotel Room?

Jun 7, 2015

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A few days ago I wrote a post that stirred up a fair amount of unintended controversy (and name calling), and since it has been on my mind pretty frequently since then, I wanted devote another post to the controversial part of the topic since it seems to be one that deserves some additional thought.  The original post was on how to potentially display additional award availability on Hyatt.com by also including ADA rooms in your search. This wasn’t something that I thought should be done every time you needed a room, but when everything else has failed it was one more thing to try.

Once upon a time I’m pretty sure that ADA room types automatically displayed along with the other search results, but now they only display if you opt in to seeing those results.  In my case clicking that button presented an award room option when there previously were not any options at all for the dates/resort I was after.

In that case I booked the ADA room on points since it was literally the only award option available for our dates, and since then I have contacted the hotel and let them know I don’t actually need an ADA accessible room-type and they have moved us to a “standard” room thus freeing that room type up in case someone truly needs the ADA room type.  However, this post isn’t really about what happened in my specific situation, but rather a broader look at who should be reserving ADA rooms in the first place.

My view was always that I would never select an ADA room over other available room types when given the choice for a number of reasons.  However, when it was the only room type left, I didn’t personally view it as an ethical slight to book the room even though I don’t need the specific ADA implements since it was the only option presented.  This combined with letting the hotel know that I don’t actually need that room type seemed like a reasonable solution that didn’t intend to slight anyone or hog a room type I didn’t truly need.  I’ve certainly been assigned an ADA room a number of times even without reserving that room type, especially if I booked via Hotwire or checked in late in the evening to a hotel.

However, based on feedback in the previous post on the topic, perhaps even that approach is flawed, or at least deserves some additional thought.  Some clearly feel that it is never okay to reserve an ADA room type unless you actually need the room modifications made available in that type of room.  This includes when the room type is the last available, when it is less expensive, when it is the only room type available on points, etc.  I’ve never viewed it in that black or white of a way before, but that doesn’t mean that my view is necessarily the correct one.

I historically had put it more in the category of not reserving a room with two beds when I only need one unless that’s all that’s available, but perhaps should reserving ADA rooms be treated more similarly to not parking in handicapped designated parking spaces (of course, that is a legal issue, so I know it’s not a totally apples to apples comparison).  Even though there isn’t a legal implication with reserving an ADA hotel room when you don’t actually need one, is there a moral or ethical flaw in that approach?

What if you have a temporary injury, or even just a preference for some of the accommodations in an ADA room due to getting older and appreciating the grab bars or lower bed?  Is it okay then to book an ADA room type, or does it need to be something that qualifies as an actual disability?  What if what you want from the ADA room most is just a little extra space (assuming there is extra space in some ADA rooms)?

I don’t know the correct answer to this issue that travelers will sometimes face when making reservations – especially as hotels create more and more “special” room types and have fewer and fewer standard rooms available at the lowest points or cash price point.  I have no doubt that traveling with a specialized need that warrants an accessible room is hard enough without folks like me occasionally booking an ADA room type when that’s all that is left, but on the other hand, is the preference or intent for an ADA room to sit empty instead of sometimes being used by someone else who doesn’t necessarily need the modifications?

Would you book an ADA room type if it was less expensive than the other room types?  What if it was the only room type left at the hotel you desired?  Does it matter if it is close-in to the travel date?  Should ADA rooms always be left available for those who truly have a specific need regardless of whether they are the only rooms left or not?

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