Q: Why is this suit important?
A: In 2006, American online consumer travel sales generated $79 billion. Increasingly, the Internet has become an indispensable tool as both a resource for planning trips and as a booking agent for all travelers. Adults with disabilities spend over $10 billion annually on travel, and almost half of these travelers consult the Internet to support their disability-related travel needs. Hotels.com is one of the five largest online travel agencies in the world. Many travelers utilize the website’s ability to online comparison shop and make hotel reservations with the guarantee that reservations booked through hotels.com will be at the lowest rates available. People with mobility disabilities are excluded from that guarantee. California civil rights statutes are intended to remedy the historic isolation and segregation of, and discrimination against, individuals with disabilities from all aspects of society. Individuals with disabilities deserve full and equal access to the travel services of hotels.com.
Q: What is the basis of the suit?
A: Defendant is alleged to be in violation of several state laws that protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination, including the Unruh Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code § 51), California’s Disabled Persons Act (California Civil Code § 54), and the Unfair Competition Law (California Business and Professions Code § 17200, et seq.).
Q: Who is in the Class?
A: The class consists of “All disabled individuals in California who require an accessible room when they travel, and who have been and continue to be deterred from using hotels.com to make room reservations for accommodations in California because of hotels.com’s refusal to guarantee reservations for accessible hotel rooms.” This class asserts statewide claims for violation of California civil rights laws.
Q: Who is the defendant?
A: The defendant is hotels.com, LP, which owns and operates the hotels.com travel website. Hotels.com, LP, is a Texas limited partnership with offices in Dallas, Texas.
Q: Who are the named plaintiffs?
A: Judith Smith is a resident of Alameda County, Calif. She is physically disabled and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Ms. Smith is one of the founders and, since 1997, the Artistic Director of the not-for-profit organization AXIS Dance Company (AXIS).
AXIS is a traveling dance troupe based in Oakland, Calif. AXIS members include both disabled and non-disabled performers.
Bonnie Lewkowicz is a resident of Alameda County, California. She is physically disabled and depends on a wheelchair for mobility. Ms. Lewkowicz is also a founding member of and performer with AXIS.
Q: What is an accessible hotel room?
A: Accessible hotel rooms are rooms specifically designed to accommodate people with mobility impairments. Features such as a doorway large enough to permit a wheelchair to enter, hallways wide enough to allow a wheelchair to maneuver, and grab bars and accessible restrooms are not merely “amenities,” but necessities for individuals with mobility impairments. Without such features, many individuals with disabilities cannot stay in a hotel room. Currently, virtually all major hotels in California are required to maintain a certain number of accessible hotel rooms for the use of patrons with disabilities.
Q: What are the goals of this lawsuit?
A: The lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring hotels.com to modify its policies and practices so that it will guarantee reservations for accessible hotel rooms.
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