The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed new regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure access to vessels for passengers with disabilities. Published on January 23, the proposal, which is available for public comment for three months, ensures access to programs and services provided by vessel operators and prohibits discriminatory practices and policies. The regulations would apply to vessels of all types and sizes that provide transportation or other services to the public, including cruise ships, ferries, water taxis, gaming and excursion boats and other types of craft.
The rule bans practices that discriminate on the basis of disability, such as denial of service, program restrictions, and price discrimination, and specifies conditions upon which certain policies, such as advance notice of the need for accessible accommodations, would be considered acceptable. It also covers responsibilities for ensuring access to vessel services and programs, including accommodation of mobility aids, assistive devices and service animals, as well as access to landside facilities serving vessels, such as terminals and floating docks. The rule highlights certain issues and questions where public feedback is sought. This information, including received comments, is posted on DOT’s site at http://dms.dot.gov/reports/fr.htm (see “ADA - Passenger Vessels” under the heading “OST”). Update: DOT extended the comment deadline to June 22, 2007 (from April 23, 2007) as indicated in a published notice.
The proposed rule does not include design requirements for vessels, which are currently under development by the Board. As explained in the notice, DOT plans to incorporate the Board’s future guidelines for vessels into its rule. The Board is preparing a proposed version of the guidelines that will be published for public comment at a future date.