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2014 - 09 September

Newsletter Hdr

Guest Column

Self-Service Kiosks for Guests Present a New ADA Litigation Risk for Hoteliers

Self-service machines that allow hotel guests to bypass the check-in line, pay for parking, buy tickets, or even rent cars are exciting options for hotels because they provide guests with greater convenience with no additional staff.  In many cases, such machines can reduce the number of employees needed to provide certain services.  However, hoteliers should be aware that the use of these machines can create lawsuit exposure if the machines are not fully accessible to individuals with various types of disabilities.  

How does a hotelier know whether a machine is accessible to individuals with disabilities?  As discussed below, for some types of self-service machines, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations have specific technical standards.  However, a simpler way to approach this issue to ask if a person who is blind or has mobility disability would be able to use the machine.  A self-service machine that can only be operated using visual information (e.g., touch screen keypads and visual images of products) would not accessible to the blind, for example.  A machine with controls that are hard to operate would not be usable to people who lack hand strength.  A machine with controls that are too high would not be accessible to people who are seated in a scooter or wheelchair.  

Redbox's recent settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by advocates for the blind highlights the challenges presented by self-service equipment and the uncertain legal landscape.  In 2012, several blind individuals and an advocacy group sued Redbox because its DVD rental kiosks could not be independently used by non-sighted individuals.  After two years of litigation and mediation, the parties entered into a class settlement under which Redbox agreed to take the following steps for all Redbox locations in California:

 

  • incorporate audio guidance technology, a tactile keypad, and other accessibility features into its DVD rental kiosks so that blind customers can use them independently at one kiosk at every location within 18 months and at all California kiosks within 30 months;
  • provide 24-hour telephone assistance at each kiosk;
  • pay $1.2 M in damages to the class of aggrieved persons in California;
  • pay Lighthouse for the Blind a one-time fee of $85K to test kiosks; 
  • pay $10K to each named plaintiff in damages; and
  • pay $800K in plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs.

Redbox also agreed to make certain accessibility improvements to its website to make it more usable by blind customers who use assistive technology to access its website.    

The lawsuit and settlement underscore the litigation risk associated with replacing employees with machines, particularly at unstaffed locations.  When an inaccessible kiosk is at a location where employees can provide assistance in a timely fashion, there is less of a need for the kiosk to be independently accessible so long as the assistance can be provided in a timely fashion without compromising a guest's confidential information.  Even then, some individuals with disabilities may still claim that they are being denied equal access because they cannot use the equipment themselves or are unable to obtain assistance in a timely way.  The situation becomes more problematic when the only way to access a good or service is by using an inaccessible self-service machine and there is no one to provide assistance, or when a guest must reveal confidential information such as a PIN to obtain assistance.  

Are self-service machines provided for customer use required to be independently accessible?  This is yet another area of the law that remains murky due to the absence of clear regulations.  The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design only contain technical requirements for automated teller machines (ATMs), fare vending machines, vending machines, and change machines.  These Standards require ATMs and fare vending machines to have accessibility features for the blind (e.g. a tactile keypad for inputs and audio-guided transactions).  Those same regulations do not require vending machines and change machines to provide such features and, instead, only require features for people with mobility disabilities.  To further complicate matters, there are no rules at all concerning other types of self-service equipment that do not fall into any of these categories such as hotel check-in or car rental kiosks.  

While it might be reasonable to assume that a self-service machine does not have to be accessible if the regulations do not explicitly require it, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has rejected this position.  In a Statement of Interest filed earlier this year in support of a plaintiff's lawsuit against a retailer, DOJ stated that point of sale devices must be independently accessible to the blind, even though there are no regulations containing technical specifications for such devices.  In support of this position, DOJ cited the regulations' requirement that a public accommodation ensure "effective communication" with individuals with disabilities in a manner that preserves their privacy.  DOJ argued that to pay by debit card, blind customers would have to disclose their Personal Identification Numbers to third parties.  DOJ also took the position that having the option to pay by credit card was not equivalent to the debit card option. 

The court did not rule on this issue because it dismissed the case due to the plaintiff's lack of standing to sue.  However, the takeaway is that hotels that provide self-service equipment for customer use that are not fully accessible are at risk of costly lawsuits and possible investigation by the DOJ.  Furthermore, it is not clear whether the DOJ would consider the provision of employee assistance at an inaccessible self-service machine to be sufficient to comply with the ADA when there is no risk of infringing on a customer's privacy.    

So what are hotel owners to do?  When buying new self-service equipment that will be used by guests, it would be wise to choose options that are independently accessible by individuals with a variety of disabilities.   If fully-accessible machines are not an option because of cost or availability, hotels must put in place standard operating procedures to ensure that employees identify customers with disabilities who need assistance at inaccessible self-serve machines and provide prompt assistance to such customers.

Minh Vu is a partner in the Washington DC office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP and the leader of the firm's ADA national Title III Team. Ms. Vu's practice focuses exclusively on advising and defending businesses in ADA Title III matters and lawsuits nationwide.  Ms. Vu has served as ADA Title III counsel for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, most of the major hotel brands, as well as ownership groups.

About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
Established in 1953 as a nonprofit educational foundation of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Educational Institute's mission is to continue being the preferred provider to the lodging industry, hospitality schools, and related hospitality industries by developing and providing quality resources to train, educate, and certify hospitality professionals worldwide.

Partner Spotlight

AHLEI’s Malaysian Partners Race Toward Hospitality Success

AHLEI is proud to now have three partners in Malaysia: Stamford College, the Malaysian Association of Hotels, and Taylor's University. We invite you to learn more about them and the good work they are doing to advance the professionalism of the hotel industry.

AHLEI's longest-established partner in Malaysia, Stamford College, invited AHLEI to co-sponsor a race car that participated in a Malaysia Merdeka 12-Hour Endurance Race at the Sepang International Circuit held August 31 to commemorate Malaysian Independence Day (Hari Merdeka). Formula Iris Racing participated in the event to raise funds to provide scholarships. AHLEI pledged a scholarship for a 16-course Dual Diploma program and added its logo to the car, a Renault Megane 265. Other sponsors pledged money per lap, with the expectation of completing 280 laps. 

AHLEI recently signed a hotel association agreement directly with the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) as a way to strengthen AHLEI's education and training collaboration with our Malaysian Association counterparts. 

"MAH has been a strong proponent of the CHA, CHT and CFBE certifications with their member properties for many years and we are excited about the new agreement as it will allow us to work closer together and contribute to raising the level of customer service in Malaysia," explained Ed Kastli, AHLEI's vice president, international sales. Kastli noted that Mr. Sam Cheah, the newly-appointed president of MAH, has been a CHA for more than 20 years.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels was established in 1974 and now has more than 700 member properties in 13 chapters throughout the country. MAH's vision is to build a workforce of highly skilled, innovative and disciplined individuals who will operate as one to enhance the efficiency of the hotel industry in its efforts to achieve the goals of Vision 2020 and beyond.  AHLEI is pleased to provide resources to help the association achieve this vision. 

AHLEI has also signed a five-year Global Academic Partner (GAP) agreement with Taylor's University in Malaysia, enabling the school to provide AHLEI courses in that country. Taylor's University Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr. Pradeep Nair shared that this development is an exciting one for the university.

"Through this partnership, Taylor's University will be the point for interested hoteliers in Malaysia to sign up for AHLEI education and training programs. By being a partner of AHLEI, we hope to raise the profile of the hospitality industry in the country and support hoteliers who sign up to become professionals of high caliber. Our collective aspiration is for Malaysian hoteliers to become independent, knowledgeable, skilled and professionally qualified," he said.

Several of the hospitality faculty members at Taylor's University already hold the Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE®) designation, as the school firmly believes in providing quality professional development to its faculty to ensure the best delivery to its students.

About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
Established in 1953 as a nonprofit educational foundation of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Educational Institute's mission is to continue being the preferred provider to the lodging industry, hospitality schools, and related hospitality industries by developing and providing quality resources to train, educate, and certify hospitality professionals worldwide.

AHLEI’S New Global Academic Partner in China Begins Unique Program with Marriott

AHLEI'S New Global Academic Partner in China Begins Unique Program with Marriott Nankai University in Tianjin, China, is a new Global Academic Partner (GAP) school for the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI). In an exciting collaboration, the university is also partnering with Marriott International to offer students a unique hospitality education experience that combines an extended internship with campus and online learning.

The "Marriott Apprentice Program" (MAP) will enroll 150 students in 2014. Those students are expected to undergo a five-year comprehensive hotel education program that consists of 18 months of learning on campus, 38 months of combined online learning and internship at Marriott hotels in two phases, as well as a final evaluation featuring progressive performance appraisal of the internships. 

Students who successfully complete the MAP program will receive graduation certificates from Nankai University as well internationally-recognized certificates from AHLEI. They will also receive supervisory job offers from Marriott International. For those outstanding graduates of MAP program, they will seamlessly be connected to Global Voyage Program, Marriott's proprietary "future leader incubator" targeting elite university graduates worldwide.  

 "We are honored and excited to work with Nankai University and American Hotel & Lodging Association Educational Institute on the MAP program. This collaboration will not only benefit the long-term development of Marriott International in China, but also help take the country's hospitality education to the next level," said Regan Taikitsadaporn, Chief Human Resources Officer for Asia Pacific of Marriott International Asia.

"The MAP program represents the cream of both local and international hospitality education that is being backed by comprehensive internship opportunities from one of the most established hotel groups worldwide," said Guan Naijia, t Vice Chancellor of Nankai University.  "The three partners are offering our potential students with a unique package of theoretical and internship education that is exceptional in China."

"Our institute has more than 60 years of experience in providing working hospitality professionals with education and training. We continue to meet the needs of the industry with a variety of hospitality solutions that conform to the best practices in the hotel and lodging sector. We are pleased to work with Marriott International and Nankai University to make a contribution to the development of the hospitality industry of China," said Leon Shi, AHLEI's Country Manager of Operations - Greater China.

AHLEI President and COO Robert L. Steele III, CHA, added, "We are excited to be part of this new initiative, and look forward to hearing more about the achievements of the future young hotel professionals who participate in this innovative program. The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute is proud to work with Nankai University and Marriott to provide the courses and certifications that will help to educate a successful generation of hospitality professionals for China."

About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
Established in 1953 as a nonprofit educational foundation of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Educational Institute's mission is to continue being the preferred provider to the lodging industry, hospitality schools, and related hospitality industries by developing and providing quality resources to train, educate, and certify hospitality professionals worldwide.

Canadian Training Company Partners with AHLEI to Build Hospitality Workforce

Canadian Training Company Partners with AHLEI to Build Hospitality Workforce Joanne Gallagher Kurtkze, M.B.A., became familiar with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) and its education and training resources while working as a hospitality professional and a college instructor. So, when she decided to establish her own training solutions company, she turned to AHLEI to be her training partner.

Empower "U" - A Workforce Training Company, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AHLEI to create, facilitate and design customer-centered, industry-focused, certified, workforce training programs in both the United States and Canada. The goal of the organization is to empower hospitality organizations and the people they employ to train in a new, affordable, flexible and innovative way. Some of the AHLEI training programs that Empower "U" will use include Guest Service Gold® and AHLEI's full line of hospitality management distance learning courses. 

Kurtzke is the face of Empower "U" and brings to the company decades of experience and expertise gained while working in the global hospitality industry designing and leading multi-million dollar tour operations and their training initiatives. She has worked with hospitality organizations throughout Europe, South America, Canada, the United States, Asia, and the Caribbean. She has also taught in the hospitality programs at Canadian Tourism College and Douglas College, both in British Columbia, Canada. 

Kurtzke and Empower "U" will work with a team of accomplished industry professionals to assess and identify service/ hospitality companies' needs then custom design and create specialized programs for both executives and their employees to meet those needs. 

"Well-trained executives and their teams contribute significantly to the bottom lines of all service-based businesses," said Kurtzke. "With a projected call to fill more than 84,500 new skilled hospitality workers in British Columbia alone, the call for companies to train and certify their existing workforce is more imperative than ever." 

Empower " U" is confident that the training materials and expertise of the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) is the right fit for all clients in the service industry sector.

"I hold three degrees from renowned educational institutions and nothing I have studied is better than AHLEI's products and services, nothing," said Kurtzke. "These products will change people's lives."

About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
Established in 1953 as a nonprofit educational foundation of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Educational Institute's mission is to continue being the preferred provider to the lodging industry, hospitality schools, and related hospitality industries by developing and providing quality resources to train, educate, and certify hospitality professionals worldwide.

New Products and Services

AHLEI’s Revised Trainer Development Program Now Packaged with Certification Exam

The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) has revised and expanded its Trainer Development Program, adding new content, offering a web-based version of the training, and packaging both the print and web-based versions of the program with the exam for the Certified Hospitality Department Trainer (CHDT®).   The program helps hospitality professionals with responsibilities for training other employees to feel more confident in their job.  Topics include how adults learn, how to prepare for and create training, how to lead one-on-one and group training, and how to follow up on training.  There are also sections on e-learning, communication, and orientation.

The new Trainer Development Program is available in a print-based program designed to be taught in a facilitated setting.  Components include an Instructor Guide, CD with PowerPoint slides, participant manual, certification study guide, and the CHDT® exam.  The print program can be presented in two-eight-hour sessions, or broken down into shorter sessions. 

For those preparing for certification on their own, the web-based version of the program offers the same content in an online format for anytime access, a PDF copy of the study guide, and one attempt at the online version of the CHDT® exam. It takes between four and six hours to complete the online program, depending on individual learning patterns.  That time does not include the time to take the CHDT® exam. 

The CHDT® exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions that must be answered within two hours. Candidates must achieve a minimum score of 70% to earn the CHDT® designation.  Candidates who do not achieve a 70% score may retake the exam up to two additional times at a cost of $25 per attempt. 

For more information, visit www.ahlei.org/whatsnew , or call 1.800.349.0299 or +1.407.999.8100. 

About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
Established in 1953 as a nonprofit educational foundation of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Educational Institute's mission is to continue being the preferred provider to the lodging industry, hospitality schools, and related hospitality industries by developing and providing quality resources to train, educate, and certify hospitality professionals worldwide.

Workforce Development

Community College of Baltimore County Graduates First Workforce Class

Community College of Baltimore County Graduates First Workforce Class The Community College of Baltimore County (Maryland) recently completed its first workforce training initiative for hospitality careers, focusing on guest service and front desk agent training.

According to Evelyn Weaver, Interim Director, Hospitality, Culinary & Tourism, the program used AHLEI's Guest Service Gold® and Front Desk Representative training programs to prepare students for professional certifications. Students all earned both the Certified Front Desk Representative (CFDR) and Certified Guest Service Professional (CGSP®) designations.  

In addition to the materials in these certifications, students toured the Four Seasons Baltimore Hotel with Donna Romano, Director of Human Resources.  They also had the opportunity to experience job shadowing at the Hampton Inn White Marsh, under the leadership of general manager Renee Taylor, CHA; and the Residence Inn in Hunt Valley, under the leadership of general manager Cory Cartwright.  All are CCBC Hospitality Partner Hotels located in the Baltimore, Maryland area.  

Pictured in the photo are:  (back row) Odakwei Mills, CFDR, CGSP; Elijah Drummer, CFDR, CGSP; Leo Martinelli, Manager, Hunt Valley Maryland Department of Economic and Workforce Development; PJ Small, CHA, CHSP, Faculty Instructor & Mentor; Hope Woodard, CFDR, CGSP; and Evelyn Weaver, CHA, CCBC Director of Hospitality; and (front row)  Rebecca Owens, CFDR, CGSP; Jean Armitage, CFDR, CGSP; and Deborah Harris, CFDR, CGSP.

About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
Established in 1953 as a nonprofit educational foundation of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Educational Institute's mission is to continue being the preferred provider to the lodging industry, hospitality schools, and related hospitality industries by developing and providing quality resources to train, educate, and certify hospitality professionals worldwide.

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