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Disability Rights Activist Faces Supreme Court Showdown over Hotel Accessibility Lawsuits

Disability rights activist Deborah Laufer has filed hundreds of federal lawsuits claiming that hotels fail to disclose accessibility information on their websites, which can make traveling harder for those with a disability that may require a wheelchair. However, on Monday, the Supreme Court took a case that could cause problems for her crusade.

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 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because she has no intention of staying at the hotels in question.

To have any merit in these lawsuits, plaintiffs traditionally must show they have suffered an injury, and Laufer does not have that. Laufer, who is in a wheelchair herself, argued that the hotel’s website did not show which rooms were handicap accessible rooms and failed to provide other relevant information for people with disabilities.

The original 2020 case was thrown out due to lack of standing grounds, however, the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived Laufer’s lawsuit. Most of the lawsuits that Laufer filed are against smaller hotels and B&B’s. The cost of fighting these lawsuits may do serious financial damage to some of these smaller places to stay.

However, Laufer’s lawyers counter that the language of the ADA allows for anyone who is disabled, and subject to discrimination on that basis, to sue if an entity has violated the law. The ADA is rarely enforced unless there are people advocating for that change.

This is what Laufer is trying to do for people like her. It is known that Hotels rarely comply with the ADA without being put on notice, the lawyers add, and because the law does not impose damages, only Laufer and some other self-appointed “testers” regularly seek to enforce it. The Supreme Court will hear this case’s arguments starting in October. 


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