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Accessibility Guidelines for Cruise Ships Proposed

Disability Accessibility on Cruise Ships┬áThe Federal Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (known as the “Access Board”) has issued proposed accessibility guidelines for cruise ships that are required to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The guidelines will apply to passenger ships that provide public transportation services such as ferries and excursion boats, and public accommodation passenger ships such as dinner or sightseeing cruises, as well as other types of ships.

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Among other things, the proposed guidelines address ramps, gangways, boarding lifts, and other components of accessible boarding; on-board accessible routes connecting passenger decks and passenger amenities within decks; accessible means of escape; doorways; toilets; wheelchair spaces in assembly areas and transportation seating areas; public address systems; general emergency alarms; and guest rooms.

Two of the most notable provisions are:

1) An elevator or platform lift is required to connect passenger decks.
2) A minimum number of guest rooms with mobility features would be required on cruise ships.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) are required to issue accessibility standards for the construction and alteration of passenger ships covered by the ADA that are consistent with the proposed guidelines. To that end, passenger vessel owners and operators would not be required to comply with the guidelines until they are adopted by DOT and DOJ as accessibility standards. The proposed guidelines would not require existing cruise ships to be made accessible until they are altered.

Public comments on the proposed guidelines must be submitted to the Access Board by September 23, 2013. After the public comment period, the Access Board will finalize the guidelines based on the feedback it receives. The Access Board estimates the total compliance costs of the proposed guidelines (annualized over 20 years) will be more than $60 million.

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