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SUPREME COURT DECISION ACKNOWLEDGES IMPORTANCE OF ACCESSIBILITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

DECEMBER 6, 2023

ALBANY, NY: The Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc. commends the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court to dismiss the case of Acheson Hotels, LLC. v. Laufer, emphasizing the significance of accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

BACKGROUND ON THE CASE.

On Tuesday, December 5, the Supreme Court dismissed Acheson Hotels, LLC. v. Laufer, a case brought forward by Deborah Laufer, a wheelchair user and advocate, against the Coast Village Hotel in Maine (owned by Acheson Hotels at the time). The case centered on the hotel’s failure to provide accessibility information on its website, violating the Department of Justice’s Reservation Rule under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

IMPORTANCE OF ACCESSIBILITY INFORMATION.

Under the DOJ’s Reservation Rule, hotels are mandated to provide comprehensive information about their accessibility features. This ensures that individuals with disabilities can make informed decisions when booking accommodations that cater to their specific needs.

ROLE OF ADVOCACY AND TESTING.

Ms. Laufer, known as a “tester,” has actively challenged businesses for not complying with the Reservation Rule. Testing, a crucial tool in enforcing civil rights laws, allows individuals like Ms. Laufer to experience and address discrimination firsthand. Acheson Hotels questioned Ms. Laufer’s standing, a move that, if upheld, could have had significant implications for the disability community’s ability to protect and enforce their rights.

COURT’S RECOGNITION OF THE ISSUE.

During oral arguments, the Supreme Court Justices emphasized that inadequate or inaccurate accessibility information sends a message that disabled individuals are not welcome. The Court recognized the harm this causes to the entire disability community and affirmed the right of disabled individuals to seek relief through legal action for the harm caused by lack of access.

A POSITIVE OUTCOME FOR ACCESSIBILITY ADVOCACY.

The Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc. is relieved by the Supreme Court’s decision, as it underscores the continued importance of individuals being able to enforce their civil rights. This decision ensures that disabled individuals can pursue legal action to address barriers and seek equal access.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is more than a legal outcome; it’s a beacon of recognition for the rights of individuals with disabilities,” said Zach Garafalo, Director of Advocacy at the Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc. “It reinforces the idea that access is not a privilege but a fundamental right.” Garafalo continues: “This decision echoes a commitment to inclusivity, sending a powerful message that our society values and safeguards the dignity of every individual, regardless of their abilities.”

The Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc. applauds the efforts of Ms. Laufer, testers and advocates working towards accessibility for everyone. MHEP hopes this decision encourages prompt updates to hotel websites and third-party booking groups to enhance accessibility.