SETTLEMENT REACHED TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO HOTELS.COM AND
EXPEDIA RESERVATION SERVICES FOR DISABLED TRAVELERS
OAKLAND, Calif. - Under a settlement announced today,
Hotels.com and Expedia.com, two of the world's leading online travel companies,
have agreed to add features to their online travel reservation systems so that
millions of travelers with disabilities can use their online services to search
for and reserve hotel rooms that have the accommodations they
Plaintiffs in the California lawsuit Smith v. Hotels.com L.P. were
represented by the public interest law firms of Disability Rights Advocates
(DRA) and Public Justice, and a leading class action law firm in Mill Valley, Calif., Chavez & Gertler LLP.
As part of the settlement, Hotels.com and
Expedia.com will gather information about hotels' accessibility features, and
will then incorporate that information into their websites so that travelers can
both search for hotels with rooms that offer the particular accommodations they
need, and make special requests online to book those accessible rooms. Each
special request will be given individual attention by a trained customer service
representative, who will work with the customer to accommodate his or her needs.
These new features will be rolled out later this year.
"For years, travelers with disabilities have
been unable to take advantage of the convenience and low cost options of booking
hotel rooms online," said plaintiff Bonnie Lewkowicz. "Now, for the first time,
I will be able to reserve a hotel room online that meets my needs, just like
Lewkowicz and co-plaintiff Judith Smith are
members of AXIS Dance Company, a not-for-profit company of professional dancers
with and without disabilities based in Oakland, Calif. Ms. Smith and Ms. Lewkowicz both rely
on wheelchairs for mobility.
"By adding website features to meet the
needs of disabled consumers, Hotels.com and Expedia are showing that they are
true leaders in the hospitality industry" added Victoria Ni , a staff attorney
at Public Justice, a public interest law firm specializing in cutting-edge
litigation nationwide. "We hope and believe that other online travel agencies
will follow their lead."
In 2006, American online consumer travel
sales generated $79 billion. For American travelers, the Internet is an
indispensable resource for planning trips and booking lodgings and
Adults with disabilities spend over $10
billion annually on travel, and almost half of them consult the Internet to
support their travel needs.
Wheelchair users need wide doorways and grab
bars and accessible bathrooms. People with visual or hearing impairments also
need accessible features, such as Braille signage or a text
"This settlement ushers in a new era in the
online travel industry. A wheelchair user who reserves a hotel room online will
no longer have to worry that she or he literally might not be able to enter the
room after they arrive," said Kevin Knestrick, an attorney with DRA, a
non-profit law center based in Berkeley, Calif., that specializes in high-impact
lawsuits on behalf of people with disabilities.
No damages were sought in the case, which
was filed in the California Superior Court for Alameda County.
For more information about the lawsuit and
settlement, please go to Public Justice's website, at www.publicjustice.net, or
to DRA's website, at www.dralegal.org.
is America's public
interest law firm, supported by - and calling on -- a nationwide network of more
than 3,000 of the nation's top lawyers to pursue precedent-setting and socially
significant litigation. It has a wide-ranging litigation docket in the areas of
consumer rights, worker safety, civil rights and liberties, toxic torts,
environmental protection, and access to the courts. Public Justice is the
principal project of the Public Justice Foundation, a not-for-profit membership
organization headquartered in Washington,
DC, with a West Coast office in Oakland, California. The Public Justice web site
address is www.publicjustice.net.
Advocates is a non-profit law firm
based in Berkeley,
California, whose mission is to
protect and advance the civil rights of people with disabilities through
high-impact litigation, advocacy and education. Disability Rights Advocates is a
national leader in protecting the rights of people with all types of
disabilities, including mobility, sensory, mental health and learning