Fairmont Hotel Decides That Handicap Spot Is Really Intended For Taxi Cabs

Imagine you have a handicap parking placard on your vehicle, but when you pull up to a hotel, the handicap accessible spot is taken by a taxi that is just idling in case someone needs a ride. You’d expect the hotel to ask the cab to move out of the way, yes? Apparenty not at one Fairmont hotel in California.

Consumerist reader Gabriel says he and his family — which includes one disabled person — went to the San Jose, Calif., hotel on Father’s Day for a family meal. But when they pulled up to the one handicap spot in front of the hotel, the spot was taken up by a taxi.

“The valet confirmed the taxi was just waiting there in case able-bodied guests needed it, yet he refused to ask the taxi to move,” writes Gabriel. “He said it was private property and the Fairmont was not obligated to honor handicapped signage.”

In a letter to Fairmont, Gabriel says the hotel’s general manager told him the hotel had decided that the handicap spot is a “loading zone” and not a “parking space.”

“She informs me it is common practice at Fairmont Hotels for non-handicapped vehicles to use the handicapped loading zone, which she states is the industry standard practice,” he writes, adding that the manager “also states that my disabled companion should be happy because she was given the opportunity to get out by the valet station — a section of the driveway which contains a lot of foot traffic, uneven ground, and numerous obstacles.”

Gabriel claims the manager told him the valet acted properly in allowing the taxi to remain in the spot.

“She asked what I wanted in order to be satisfied and I replied for starters my satisfaction would begin by her pledge to respect the handicapped loading zones in the future,” he writes. “She indicated that was off the table as the hotel needs the handicapped zone for taxis and other able bodied people.”

The manager replied to his letter:

In follow up to our dialogue last night, please know that I sincerely regret any perception that has been created implying that we do not care or understand the legalities of compliance for accessibility. We aim to provide every one of our guests with respect, courtesy and convenience. As I explained, our team has recently completed sensitivity training with an ADA specialist and as such have been positively recognized for supporting recent ADA law changes relative to access to our leisure facilities.

While we are fortunate that the hotel’s entire driveway is considered ADA accessible (all one level with no obstructions) the hotel chose to designate a “loading and unloading” spot for the added convenience of our disabled guests. Please see the (attached) photo.

We do our utmost to keep this designated area clear as I also explained, however there are times when it will be temporarily occupied. I believe our doorman, who is there to assist in situations such as these, did the right thing in providing you with an even closer and safer entrance to the hotel and was trying to be helpful. If he did not interact with you appropriately, then I most sincerely apologize.

As we certainly want to do the “right thing” I have asked our legal counsel to review the pertinent regulations about this courtesy loading zone and should any changes be required, rest assured that I will implement them immediately.

The e-mail also included the a closer shot of the parking space showing a sign that says “passenger loading only; no parking.”

Gabriel’s reply to the manager:

The picture you provided does indeed indicate that the space taken up by the taxi is designated for “handicapped passenger loading only, no parking”. Unfortunately the Fairmont must consider that sign meaningless, it the space was not being used for “handicapped passenger loading only” but as a waiting pen for a taxi. Even this may have been a forgivable oversight if no handicapped people were around but our explicit request to use the space for its labeled purpose was unlawfully refused.

Additionally, I disagree with your assertion that a busy hotel doorman is qualified to determine what is a safe alternative unloading zone for a disabled person with complex medical issues.

The bottom line is that my family member was legally entitled to the designated space and it was denied to her even after our request. And no matter what excuse for this injustice is offered by the Fairmont, the picture I have of a taxi being allowed to sit in the handicapped space denied to a handicapped person will speak volumes to potential customers who will want to stand in solidarity for the rights of disabled people.

We agree with Gabriel that the signage only states that the spot is intended for the loading and unloading of cars displaying a handicap parking placard. And even if the hotel takes that to mean unloading and loading of all guests, we don’t see how it’s acceptable to allow an idling taxi to remain in the spot while those who need it are directed to a different area.