The W Washington Hotel Issues a Semi-False Statement

On Sunday night, a security guard refused to let two friends with physical disabilities use the accessible door to the W Washington Hotel. I wrote about it and the hotel sent me a statement over email. It’s mixed. I’m posting the whole thing in italics, but breaking it up and adding emphasis on a lie.

The W Washington DC Hotel is fully committed to ensuring that its facilities are accessible to individuals with disabilities. We deeply regret the breakdown in communication with hotel security concerning use of the main accessible entrance for individuals with disabilities on the evening of July 26.

The F Street entrance of the hotel, which is an accessible entrance, is typically used as the primary entrance of the hotel. On the evening of July 26, for security reasons, non-guests were directed to the 15th Street hotel entrance. An additional security officer employed by a third party was stationed at the F Street entrance to direct non-guests to the 15th Street entrance. Once the patrons explained that they required use of the accessible entrance, the security officer radioed the hotel for permission to grant them access. The hotel advised that the individuals should be provided access, and access was immediately granted.

The bolded section is fundamentally untrue. From my email to the manager.

When we said that we needed an accessible entrance, he asked us if we were guests of the hotel. We said no. He said, “Only hotel guests can use the accessible door.” At that point, M went around to the other side and spoke to the person at the desk, and only as she began to talk to the desk attendant was L allowed to enter.

In fact, we were denied the right to enter, after saying that we needed an accessible entrance, about four times. M became so angry that she ran around the side of the building. You can read her tweets about the physical and emotional costs of this action.

Does it matter that this part of the statement is a lie? And why lie here? There are a few options. 1) The lawyers told the Hotel to lie. 2) The security guard lied to protect his job. 3) The manager on duty and the security guard colluded to lie to protect their jobs.

There is some good here, though, as the statement continues:

We apologize that our security procedures in this rare situation compromised immediate use of the accessible entrance for these patrons. Hotel management has reminded its own staff that the F Street entrance is always to be made available for any person requiring an accessible entrance, regardless of any other temporary restrictions in place. The hotel will ensure that in the future any third party security and other temporary staff are reminded of these procedures as well.

We are disappointed that this incident occurred, as we are committed to complying with applicable accessibility laws and ensuring the best possible experience for all of our guests and visitors.

So that’s good. I hope he realizes that it wasn’t just this one security officer, but everyone, including the on-site management who didn’t recognize the severity of the statement, calling it an inconvenience. I wrote back:

It was very troubling that not only did the security guard refuse to provide accessible entry, but also your staff did not recognize the gravity, and arguably illegality, of the situation. It’s my hope that when instructing them about accessibility, you will remind your staff that disability is often not visible to the eye.

The general manager replied:

I was not there so we’ve pieced together the incident after the fact. Because of your experience yesterday, we are retraining our staff and any contract staff to be more proactive in the event we need to reroute customers from our main entrance. And to your point our employees will need to be reminded that disabilities are not always visible to the eye.

Anything outcome that helps people learn about invisible, or in this case less visible disabilities, is a good thing. Neither L nor M were using as wheelchair or cane/walker at this time, so it’s entirely possible that the guard would have reacted differently had a mobility device been visible. But let’s not forget the #cultofcompliance and the powerful nature of arbitrary rules in our society. The Man at Door F had a job to do – keep people from using that door for “security” reasons. The Man at Door F was going to do his job.

I’m a pragmatist. I’m happy that the hotel responded, that they are vowing better training, and I think the W will become more accessible as a result of this incident. But this lie at the heart of their statement irks me greatly, and I know it infuriates L, M, and S, who were with me, as well. We’re discussing what to do next.

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