On January 10th, the Board held a public hearing on guidelines for passenger vessels it is developing under the ADA. The event allowed the public to provide feedback on materials the Board released in November, including draft guidelines for large vessels, such as cruise ships, and a notice outlining several different options on addressing access to smaller vessels, such as water taxis and excursion boats.
Representatives from a variety of interested organizations provided testimony at the event. Participants included members of associations representing the passenger vessel industry, cruise line and charter boat operators, naval architects and marine engineers, accessible travel and hospitality services, and persons with vision impairments. Regional boating organizations, transit districts, and water taxi lines also provided comment.
Comment was received on provisions concerning large vessels, small vessels, and the distinction drawn between them. As drafted, the guidelines for large vessels would apply to vessels designed to accommodate more than 150 passengers or 49 overnight passengers. Issues were raised about relying solely on passenger count to draw a line between large and small vessels. With respect to small vessels, support was expressed for covering access as recommended by the Board's Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee, an option under consideration as outlined in the notice. This option would apply a limited set of access requirements to small vessels, make a distinction between power and sailing vessels, and cover power vessels more specifically in relation to size. Commenters also addressed specific elements of accessibility, including elevators, platform lifts, and alarms, as well as access issues such as proper accommodation of service animals and wayfinding systems for passengers with vision impairments.
Comment Deadline Extended; Additional Hearings to be Held
A common concern expressed at the hearing was the need for more time to review the published materials and to provide detailed comments in writing. In response, the Board has extended the comment deadline an additional four months from March 28th to July 28th as indicated in a published notice. The Board plans to hold additional hearings on both the east and west coasts during the comment period. Their dates and locations will be announced in coming weeks.
For further information contact the Board at (202) 272-0012 (v), (202) 272-0082 (TTY), or email@example.com (e-mail).