Saim Sarwar, a Brooklyn man with disabilities, has accused five Hudson Valley hotels of disability discrimination, in the latest lawsuits in a 14-month litigation campaign in which he has sued 290 hotels nationwide.
Sarwar claims that the local hotels violate the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York State Human Rights Law because their online reservation systems inadequately describe accommodations for people with disabilities.
The reservation systems are the hotels’ gateways, he states in the complaints filed Nov. 2 in U.S. District Court, White Plains, but insufficient information makes it difficult to book a room or make an informed decision about accessibility.
Sarwar is unable to take more than a few steps on his own, according to the complaint. He uses a wheelchair outside of the home. He is unable to tightly grasp, pinch or twist his wrist to operate devices.
Accessible parking spaces must be wide enough for him to use a ramp to get in and out of his vehicle. Pathways must be level, wide and free of holes and hazards that could tip the wheelchair or catch its wheels. Doorways must be wide. Doorknobs and sinks must be low enough for him to reach. Commodes and showers must be equipped with grab bars.
Federal and state regulations require hotels to identify access features for people with disabilities, according to the complaints, and to ensure that reservations can be made in the same way that people without disabilities make reservations.
Sarwar says he stayed in hotels when he traveled throughout the East Coast from late August through early September, but he does not explicitly state that he stayed in any of the five hotels named in the lawsuits. Nor does he describe inadequate facilities at the hotels.
Rather, he says that the online reservations systems — Booking.com, Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Priceline.com, Orbitz.com and Agoda.com — do not identify or allow booking of accessible rooms or provide sufficient information about accessibility.
The alleged violations, he says, are frustrating and humiliating, isolate him and deprive him of the enjoyment of services that are available to the general public.
Sarwar intends to make the same trip next year, according to the complaint. But as long as the reservations systems do not comply with disability regulations, “it would be a futile gesture” to use them again “unless he is willing to suffer additional discrimination.”
Sarwar is asking the court to declare that the hotels have violated the disability laws, order them to revise their online reservation systems or provide the necessary information to third party booking sites and award $1,000 in damages from each hotel.
The hotels named in the complaints are Americas Best Value Inn, Central Valley, Orange County; Budget Motor Inn, Stony Point, Rockland County; Econo Lodge, New Windsor, Orange County; Inn on the Hudson, Peekskill, Westchester County; and Countryside Motel, Cold Spring, Putnam County.
From Sept. 4, 2020 through Nov. 2, 2021, Sarwar has accused 290 hotels of discrimination in Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.
He is represented by Georgia attorney Tristan W. Gillespie. Since May 2019, Gillespie has filed 378 cases under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to federal court records, on behalf of five individuals.