A. SCOPE OF THE INVESTIGATION
1. The United States Department of Justice (Department) initiated this matter as a compliance review of Best Choice Investment (Owner/Operator), which owns and operates the Ramada Inn and Suites (Ramada Inn facility), in S. El Monte, California, under title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12188 - 12189, and the Departments implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36. The compliance review focused on whether the Owner/Operator has complied with the title III provisions designed to ensure that guests who are deaf or hard of hearing have the full and equal enjoyment of the hotels goods and services. The compliance review did not and this Agreement does not address title IIIs effective communication provisions for people with other types of disabilities or other aspects of title III, such as other types of barrier removal.
2. The Ramada Inn facility has 100 suites. There are four accessible suites that contain a television with closed captioning and electrical outlets for the accessibility equipment used by individuals with hearing impairments. There are two pay telephones located on the first floor and one has volume control. There is one pay telephone booth with a counter and electrical outlet to support a TTY. Signs are posted at the Front Desk and pay telephone areas to inform the guests of the availability of TTYs. The Owner/Operator has one communication kit at the Front Desk that includes a teletypewriter, a visual notification device to alert guests of incoming telephone calls, a power bed shaker to awaken a guest, a TV closed captioned decoder, a telephone handset and a visual emergency alarm to alert guests to smoke and fire.
3. Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 12182 and 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.201 and 36.202.
4. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design (Standards), 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, App. A, specify that hotels that must comply with the Standards (newly constructed or altered hotels) that have 100 guest rooms are required to have 9 rooms equipped with visual emergency alarms, visual notification devices to alert room occupants of incoming telephone calls and a door knock or bell, and accessible electrical outlets within 4 feet of telephone connections to facilitate the use of TTYs. Alternatively, portable visual alarms and communication devices may be provided. 28 C.F.R. § 36.401 and Standards 9.1.2, 9.2.2(8), 9.3.1, and 9.3.2.
5. The owners, operators, lessees, and lessors of hotels and other places of public accommodation that were built before January 26, 1993, and not modified since January 26, 1992, must remove architectural barriers to access to people with disabilities when doing so is readily achievable. 28 C.F.R. § 36.304. The barrier removal must comply with the Standards where doing so is readily achievable. 28 C.F.R. § 36.304(d).
6. The Ramada Inn facility was built in 1990 and has not been altered since. Therefore, title IIIs readily achievable barrier removal provisions apply, rather than the new construction or alterations provisions.
7. Public accommodations must also provide effective communication to persons with disabilities, including providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services such as teletypewriters (TTYs) except where doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods or services provided or impose an undue burden. 28 C.F.R. § 36.303.
8. The Ramada Inn facility is located at1089 Santa Anita Avenue, S. El Monte, California. It is a place of lodging and therefore is considered a place of public accommodation as defined in section 301(7)(A) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(A), and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
9. The Owner/Operator of the Ramada Inn facility owns and operates a place of public accommodation, so it is a public accommodation covered by title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7), and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
10. The Attorney General is authorized under section 308(b)(1)(A)(i) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12188 to undertake periodic compliance reviews of entities that are covered under title III. See also 28 C.F.R. § 36.502 (c).
11. The Attorney General is authorized under section 308(b)(1)(B) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(B), to bring a civil action under title III in any situation where a pattern or practice of discrimination is believed to exist or where a matter of general public importance is raised. See also 28 C.F.R. § 36.503(a).
12. In consideration of the terms of, and consistent with this Agreement as set forth below, the Attorney General agrees to refrain from undertaking further investigation or from filing civil suit in this matter, except as provided in paragraph 23.
13. This Agreement is the result of a negotiated compromise. Its terms do not reflect the full legal requirements of the ADA; nevertheless, in the interest of finality, both parties believe it is in their best interest to enter into this Agreement.
C. REMEDIAL ACTION
14. Within 30 days from the effective date of this Agreement, the Owner/Operator will acquire one TTY to be maintained at the Front Desk to enable staff to communicate with hotel guests who use TTYs, such as guests who request wake-up calls, place room service orders, or have other routine telephone communications with hotel staff. This TTY will be in addition to those that are required to be available for use by guests with hearing impairments.
15. The first time more than one communication kit is requested for use by guests with hearing impairments, the Owner/Operator will purchase an additional communication kit within 30 days. Furthermore, the Owner/Operator will continuously monitor usage of the equipment required by this Agreement and will purchase additional equipment, to supply up to 9 rooms, if needed to meet demand and if doing so does not impose an undue burden (for TTYs) or go beyond what is readily achievable (for the other equipment).
16. For two years from the effective date of this Agreement, the Owner/Operator shall maintain a written document of the number of requests made by guests for communication kits.
17. Within 60 days from the effective date of this Agreement, the Owner/Operator will determine whether all guest rooms have electrical outlets within four feet of a telephone connection, to facilitate the use of TTYs. Standards § 9.3.1. If not, then the Owner/Operator shall provide electrical extension cords with the communication kits required in paragraph 15.
18. The Owner/Operator shall maintain all devices acquired in accordance with paragraphs 14 and 15 in good working condition. This includes, but is not limited to, acquiring appropriate contracts for service, maintenance, and prompt repair of the devices.
19. The Owner/Operator acknowledges that purchasing a TTY pursuant to paragraph 14 does not impose an undue burden and that it is readily achievable to purchase the other equipment required by this Agreement under paragraph 15.
20. The Owner/Operator will ensure that all Hotel staff is trained in all ADA issues relevant to the hotel, including, but not limited to: 1) location of accessible parking and entrances; 2) location and type of accessible guest rooms; 3) accessible features within each accessible guest room; 4) location of accessible routes into and throughout the hotel, where not all routes are accessible; 5) location and use of accessibility equipment (e.g., TTYs, closed captioned televisions, visual notification devices); 6) all hotel reservations and other policies regarding visitors with disabilities or accessible features; 7) maintenance of accessible routes; and 8) all requirements of this Agreement. The Owner/Operator will ensure that all persons on staff at the time of the effective date of this Agreement are trained in these issues no later than 10 days after the effective date of this agreement, and that future staff are trained in these issues within 24 hours of beginning employment.
21. Sixty days and again two years and three years from the effective date of this Agreement, the Owner/Operator will submit reports to the Department detailing the actions taken to comply with this Agreement and including copies of invoices for equipment purchased pursuant to this Agreement and any written statements or reports addressing the volume of requests for such equipment.
D. IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT
22. The Department of Justice may review compliance with this Agreement at any time, including sending unannounced testers to stay at the Ramada Inn facility and determine whether equipment is available for guests with hearing impairments.
23. If the Department believes that this Agreement or any of its requirements has been violated, it may institute a civil action in federal district court to enforce this Agreement or the requirements of title III.
24. Failure by the Department of Justice to enforce this entire Agreement or any of its provisions or deadlines shall not be construed as a waiver of the Departments right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.
25. This Agreement is a public document. A copy of this document or any information contained in it will be made available to any person by the Owner/Operator or the Department on request.
26. The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below.
27. This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written agreement, shall be enforceable. This Agreement does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other federal law. This Agreement does not affect the Owner/Operators continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the ADA.
28. This Agreement will remain in effect for three years from the effective date of this Agreement, or until the parties agree that full compliance with this Agreement by the Owner/Operator has been achieved.
29. If the Owner/Operator seeks to sell any interest in the Hotel, it must complete all required modifications before any such sale takes place, regardless of any deadlines set by this Agreement, or obtain a written certification from the buyer that the buyer will make the required structural modifications by the required deadline and maintain all non-structural modifications, and the Owner/Operator must notify the Department prior to the sale and send the Department a copy of any such written certifications.
30. The person signing this document for the Owner/Operator represents that he or she is authorized to bind the Owner/Operator to this Agreement.
For the Owner/Operator: For the United States:
BEST CHOICE INVESTMENTS
a California Corporation
dba Ramada Inn All Suites
Paige P. Yen, President
1089 Santa Anita Avenue
South El Monte, CA 91733
RALPH F. BOYD, JR.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
JOHN L. WODATCH, Chief
SUSAN BUCKINGHAM REILLY,Deputy Chief
NAOMI MILTON, Supervisory Attorney
BRENDA SHEPPARD, Investigator
Disability Rights Section-NYA
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
June 16, 2003