Americans With Disability Act (ADA) & Cruise Lines
The newer cruise ships are providing wheel chair accessible facilities, especially the staterooms and bathrooms. The older, usually smaller vessels cannot always meet the ADA requirements. What ADA requires or wants is quite different from what might be considered as standards for making a vessel friendly to the disabled. This is the present day predicament that could confront a disabled passenger and is due to the non-performance of the United States Department of Transportation. This is the federal agency that is responsible for shipping and the cruise lines.
You may be confused when you read this but it is not my objective to confuse but you are dealing with your government. On page 2, 1994 Supplement to Title III Technical Manual of ADA " Are privately owned ships covered by title III? Yes. Ships operated by private entity that is primarily engaged in the business of providing transportation are subject to ADFA requirements established by the U.S. Department of Transportation(see III-4-4700). (Ships registered under foreign flags that operate in the United States may be subject to domestic laws, such as ADA, unless there are specific treaty prohibitions that preclude enforcement.) If a ship, or portion of a ship, functions as one of the twelve categories of places of public accommodation, the ship is also subject to title III requirements of public accommodations.
"ILLUSTRATION: A cruise ship is owned and operated by a private entity whose primary business is to operate cruise ships. On the ship are places of lodging, restaurants, bars, health club, nightclub. The private entity is a public accommodation and must comply with applicable requirements of title III"
The following is the "kicker" as to why I have written this article. "Places of public accommodation aboard cruise ships must comply with all of the title III requirements, including removal of barriers to access where readily achievable .Currently, however, a ship is not required to comply with specific accessibility standards for new construction or alterations because specific accessibility standards for new construction or alterations of cruise ships have not yet been developed?
In 1992, United States Senator Phil Gramm wrote to the head of the U.S. Department of Transportation to come up with construction and alterations standards. As of this writing in 2001, no standards have been established by the DOT. I suggest every disabled passenger or those interested, write to their Congressional Representatives to "light a fire under the DOT. In a recent ADA settlement case involving Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Lines, the lack of information on construction and alteration was taken into consideration determining the outcome of the settlement.