Disabled Passengers on Cruise Ships
There still seems to be little improvement of what disabled passe3ngers may encounter on foreign flagged cruise ships. On January 12, 2004 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in the case of D.Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line, Ltd. (NCL), suing the cruise line also in behalf of others, ruled that Title III of the Americans With Disability Act (ADA) does not apply to NCL. Since the vessels of NCL are foreign flagged the ruling of this court should apply to all foreign flagged ships. However, there has been little uniformity within the Federal Court Circuits. Other Federal Courts have upheld Title III. The U.S.Department of Justice that is responsible for ADA has enforced or sued cruise lines under Title III, contending cruise ships are places of public accommodation. No cases involving foreign flagged cruise lines and ADA have been presented the United States Supreme Court. There seems to be a reluctance of the part of the Department of Justice to file a brief with the Supreme Court since this Supreme Court has not been friendly to the disabled.
In 1993, United States Senator Phil Gramm(Tex) wrote a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation that is responsible for shipping to develop specifications for what constitute a wheelchair accessible or facility for the disabled. As of to day the DOT has done little in the way of developing standards and specifications. All the DOT would have to do is buy a copy of Douglas Ward’s” Ocean Cruising and Cruise Ships 2003”, Pages 78 to 80 to ascertain what is required. Under Title III the cruise lines are not required to provide wheelchairs although we have not found this to be a problem
The wife is disabled requiring use of a wheelchair and over the many years of cruising, even with the best cruise lines, what has been provided as a wheelchair accessible stateroom usually has a “Rube Goldberg” facilities in the bathroom. The staterooms are usually in the poorest location on the ship. Some only offer inside staterooms. Some of the vessels are not wheelchair friendly to get around. I cannot understand why the cruise lines continue to build ships with showers inside a bathtub.
The plaintiffs in this case alleged that physical barriers denied them access to the following
1)”emergency evacuation equipment and emergency related evacuation programs; (2) facilities such as restrooms, restaurants, swimming pools, and elevators; and (3) cabins with balcony or window. They also alleged that there had to pay a premium for the wheelchair accessible cabin.
This court ruled: Foreign flagged cruise ships are not subject to Title III of the ADA unless, and until Congress clearly expresses its intention to do so. You may not get much action on the part of members of Congress until they stop accepting money from the lobbies for the cruise industry. What must be done is to inundate your Congressional Representatives and the Secretary of the Department of Transportation to take appropriate action. After all they are supposed to work of us, not the cruise lines that who do not even pay corporate income taxes on their earnings generated in the United States. Get out your pen, typewriter or e-mail.