You are on page 1of 9

DEC 23 1992 The Honorable Tom Harkin United States Senate 531 Senate Hart Building Washington, D.C.

20510-6025 Dear Senator Harkin: This letter is in response to your inquiry on behalf of Richard J. Lewis, who expressed concern about several statements made at a seminar by Thomas Youngblood, a representative of the American Hotel and Motel Association, concerning the provision auxiliary aids by places of lodging under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Mr. Lewis has separately addressed his concerns to this Department. A copy of the Department's response to Mr. Lewis is attached. As we advised him, the American Hotel and Motel Association received a grant from this Department to develop technical assistance materials under the ADA. However, the presentation by Mr. Youngblood at the seminar was not a grantsponsored event, and, accordingly, we had no occasion to review his remarks. Our letter also set forth the ADA requirements for hotels and motels to provide auxiliary aids and services for persons who are deaf or hearing impaired. Finally, we provided information about our complaint processing procedures and confirmed our strong commitment to enforcement of the ADA. I hope this information will be useful to you in responding to Mr. Lewis. Sincerely,

John R. Dunne Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Enclosure cc: Records, Chrono, Wodatch, Magagna, McDowney, Novich Udd:Novich:congress:harkin3

01-01815​ DEC 23 1992 Richard J. Lewis Language Seminars, Inc. 13614 N.W. 14th Place Vancouver, Washington 98685 Dear Mr. Lewis: This letter is in response to your inquiry about the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Your letter expresses concern about the correctness of several statements about auxiliary aids made at a recent ADA seminar in Oregon by Tom Youngblood, a representative of the American Hotel and Motel Association. The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities having rights or obligations under the Act. This letter provides informal guidance to assist you in understanding the ADA's requirements. However, it does not constitute a legal interpretation or legal advice, and it is not binding on the Department. As you know, the American Hotel and Motel Association received a grant from the Department of Justice to develop technical assistance materials to assist hotel and motel operators in understanding their obligations under the ADA. The written materials produced pursuant to the grant were carefully reviewed by the Department. However, Mr. Youngblood's presentation at the Oregon seminar was not a grant-sponsored activity and, accordingly, we had no occasion to review his remarks. The ADA requires several types of communication aids for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing in places of transient lodging. The standards for new construction and alteration of these facilities can be found in section 9.1.3 of the Accessibility Guidelines, which are appended to the Department's title III regulation (copy enclosed), which requires a percentage of sleeping rooms to be equipped with visual alarms, notification devices, telephones with volume control, and accessible outlets for telecommunication devices for person who are deaf (TDD's). Section 36.303 of the title III regulation requires that hotels

cc: Records, Chrono, Wodatch, McDowney, Novich, Friedlander, FOIA Udd:Novich:policy:PL.375 1-018166​ -2provide closed-caption decoders and TDD's on request to persons with hearing impairments, and that the hotel have a TDD at the front desk for communication with rooms lodging persons who are using a TDD. In addition to communication aids in sleeping rooms, the Accessibility Guidelines, at sections 4.1.3(17)(b) and (c), contain requirements for public phone banks in lobbies and other public areas. Finally, enclosed is a copy of this Department's title III Technical Assistance Manual, which addresses auxiliary aids at pages 25-29 and 54. The Department of Justice has received and is investigating over 700 complaints under title III of the ADA. A number of the complaints concern hotels and motels and allege failure to provide auxiliary aids for patrons who are deaf or hearing impaired. When possible in our investigations, we attempt to negotiate a resolution of the complaints short of litigation. In the case of a number of complaints relating to hotels and motels, we have been successful in obtaining commitments to purchase and install various auxiliary aids as required under the ADA. Our files on these complaints will not be closed until we are satisfied that the entities have followed through with their commitments. I hope this information is responsive to your inquiry. Sincerely,

John L. Wodatch Chief Public Access Section Enclosure Title III Regulation

01-01817​ SIGN LANGUAGE SEMINARS, INC. (STAMP) 92 OCT 27 AM 11:40

October 22, 1992 The Honorable Thomas Harkin 210 Walnut Street Room 733 Des Moines, IA. 50309 Dear Senator Harkin: I am enclosing a copy of the letter that I wrote to DOJ today. I thought that you might be interested in how some of the provisions of the ADA legislation are being misrepresented by "experts". I hope the fact that a paid lobbyist, such as Mr. Tom Youngblood, can be hired to come to our State and deliberately mis-quote the ADA, infuriates you as much as it does me. I really don't have much power to prevent such travesties, but I think that YOU do. Thank you. Sincerely,

Richard J. Lewis Vice President

(STAMP) 202-82-0

COMMUNICATION WITH THE DEAF IS GOOD BUSINESS 1-800-322-KAYE 01-01818​SIGN LANGUAGE SEMINARS, INC. October 22, 1992 Ms. Joan Magagna

Asst. Director, Civil Rights Division OFFICE OF AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT Department of Justice. P.O. Box 66738 Washington, D.C. 20035-9998 Dear Ms. Magagna: This letter is in reference to a speech made at the Oregon Lodging Association annual convention by Mr. Tom Youngblood, on October 20, 1992. You may recall that my business partner, Mr. Dominick Faraca, discussed our concerns with you by telephone yesterday. We have differing views with Mr. Youngblood regarding interpretation of the ADA law. It is these differing views that we wish to discuss with you and your department. First of all, let me explain what our company is all about. One of our areas of expertise is providing assistive listening devices for the hearing impaired. We also teach deaf awareness seminars to various businesses, in an attempt to show businesses how to effectively communicate with the hearing impaired/deaf employee. We teach sign language courses to hospitals, police organizations, and others that have expressed concerns regarding effective communication with the hearing impaired/deaf population. We teach a college course in deaf awareness. Deaf awareness is our only business and we feel that we are very professional at what we do. It is in the context of our assistive listening devices that we met Mr. Tom Youngblood. We had a booth at the Oregon Lodging Association convention in which we displayed our array of assistive listening devices for the hearing impaired. (I enclose a brochure on our products for your perusal). Mr. Youngblood came by our booth and introduced himself to us. He explained to us that he was to be the guest speaker the next day and would be giving his views on the ADA law. In previewing with Tom some of the topics that he was going to discuss, we realized that there were some differences between how he interpreted the ADA law and how we interpreted it. As our conversation with Tom continued, it became very apparent that he was going to espouse some interpretations of the ADA law that were contrary to ours. He invited us to come to his lecture, but admonished us to

not ask questions as he did not want "to provide a forum for marketing our products". COMMUNICATION WITH THE DEAF IS GOOD BUSINESS 1-800-322-KAYE 01-01819​SIGN LANGUAGE SEMINARS, INC. Page -2- D.O.J. During Tom's speech he said the following things that we strongly question. 1. THE ADA LAW HAS VERY LITTLE TEETH. THE CHANCE OF HAVING A FINE LEVIED IS NEXT TO ZERO. THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN WOULD BE THAT A CITIZEN MAY SUE THE HOTEL AND THAT THE ONLY PENALTY TO THE HOTEL WOULD BE THAT THE HOTEL WOULD HAVE TO COMPLY WITH WHATEVER IT WAS THAT WAS IN DISPUTE. IN ADDITION, THE CITIZEN MAY OR MAY NOT BE AWARDED ATTORNEYS FEES. IN ADDITION, SHOULD THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE GET INVOLVED, THE WORST THAT WOULD HAPPEN IS THAT THE HOTEL "MAY" GET A LETTER AND A SLAP ON THE WRIST. THE CHANCES OF THE "DOJ" LEVYING ANY FINES ARE ABOUT ZERO. MR. YOUNGBLOODS COMMENT WAS, QUOTE, "DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE TERMS OF THE ADA LAW, AND LET YOUR HEART BE YOUR GUIDE". End quote. (I submit to you, Ms. Magagna, that if it were left to people to settle these matters with their "hearts" that there would have been no necessity for the ADA legislation.) 2. THE ONLY ASSISTIVE LISTENING DEVICES REQUIRED BY ADA ARE TWO TDD TELEPHONES, AND ONE CLOSED CAPTION TELEVISION DECODER PER HOTEL LOCATION. (On pages 30 & 31, in Mr. Youngbloods own handbook on ADA, are listed text telephones, closed caption TV

decoders, visual alarm smoke detectors, visual door knock alerting devices, and visual devices available or in-place so that guests with hearing disabilities are afforded the effective communication services and benefits equal to those provided to other guests.) THESE PAGES ARE IN DIRECT CONFLICT WITH TOM'S SPEECH. WHEN WE ASKED TOM TO EXPLAIN THIS DISCREPANCY, HIS RESPONSE WAS THAT "YOU GUYS ARE JUST ASKING THIS QUESTION BECAUSE YOU WANT TO SELL MORE EQUIPMENT", AND ENDED HIS LECTURE ON THAT POINT. COMMUNICATION WITH THE DEAF IS GOOD BUSINESS 1-800-322-KAYE 13614 N.W. 14th Place * Vancouver, Washington 98685 * Office 1-800-322-KAYE 01-01820 SIGN LANGUAGE SEMINARS, INC. Page -3- D.O.J. 3. THERE HAS YET TO BE A SINGLE COMPLAINT FILED UNDER TITLE III OF ADA. FURTHER, THERE HAVE ONLY BEEN A HAND FULL OF COMPLAINTS FILED UNDER TITLE I. DON'T WORRY FOLKS, NOT MUCH CHANCE OF GETTING CAUGHT. THERE ARE NO REGULATIONS WITH REFERENCE TO THE NUMBER OF ROOMS IN AN EXISTING HOTEL THAT MUST BE EQUIPPED WITH ASSISTIVE LISTENING DEVICES. (I refer you to the chart on page 54 of his own book, in which definite numbers of rooms are stated. Further, on page 59 of his book, there is a checklist for rooms for guests with hearing disabilities. This check list refers directly to auxiliary devices, that Tom said aren't provided for under the ADA law.)

4.

It is not my intention, Ms. Magagna, to make an example or cause any "heat" for Mr. Tom Youngblood, or anyone else. Tom just happens to have been the one that was purporting to hotel owners and managers in my State that what he had to

say was in fact the law. I am merely trying to get at what this ADA legislation is all about. Does the law have "teeth"? Have there been any complaints filed with DOJ under Title III? If so, to what end. Is it extremely unlikely that a non-complier will ever be subject to enforcement? Are there regulations for the number of assistive listening devices to be provided in a hotel, or are they not? We have been in this business for a long time, and I like to think that we have a reputation for honesty and professionalism. We have a long list of clients that spread nationwide, and we are proud of that. We do not wish to misrepresent any provision that is contained in the ADA law. However, as you can see, we are somewhat in a quandary having heard Mr. Youngbloods version of the law. We are extremely uncomfortable, as advocates for the deaf, with the idea of letting companies determine compliance with the ADA law with their "hearts".

COMMUNICATION WITH THE DEAF IS GOOD BUSINESS 1-800-322-KAYE 13614 N.W. 14th Place * ILLEGIBLE 01-01821​ SIGN LANGUAGE SEMINARS, INC.

Page -4- D.O.J. It is my hope that you will give this letter careful consideration. We are seeking guidance from your office as to how this ADA legislation should be interpreted with regard to our business. I feel that we have been operating under the correct interpretation of the law. That feeling has now been challenged by Mr. Tom Youngblood. So, again, we seek your guidance. One more thing. Prior to his lecture, Mr. Youngblood handed

out a booklet entitled "Accommodating All Guests", by John Salmen, made possible by a grant from the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. We feel that this book is correct in its interpretation of ADA. What we do not understand is how the person that handed out the book could differ so widely with its views. I hope that Mr. Youngblood's wages are not subsidized by a grant. Are they? Thank you, Ms. Magagna, for your attention. I look forward to your reply. Sincerely,

Richard J. Lewis Vice President/Mktng. Encs. C.C. Mr. Phil Peach, Oregon Lodging Association Mr. Tom Youngblood, American Hotel & Motel Association Mr. Toby Olson, State of Washington Governors Committee on Disability Issues and Employment The Honorable Thomas Harkin, Senator, Iowa

COMMUNICATION WITH THE DEAF IS GOOD BUSINESS 1-800-322-KAYE 13614 N.W. 14th Place * Vancouver, WashingtonILLEGIBLE 01-01822