U.S. citizens are aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were passed by Congress in 1990 to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities concerning employment, public services, public accommodation and commercial facilities. As a result, we have witnessed the retrofitting of older buildings, new structural designs to business and residential buildings; as well as, infrastructure changes nationwide to accommodate persons with a variety of special needs.
In the past, Cruise ship owners and staff falsely believed they were exempt from ADA standards and briskly fought to avoid compliance while making travelers with disabilities feel unwanted. Recently, the Department of Justice and Federal agencies responsible for administering the law was forced to clarify the term “places of public accommodation,” in regards to cruise ships based on discrimination complaints filed by travelers with disabilities.
In response: The Department of Justice has determined that cruise ships are places of public accommodation, and is therefore subject to Title III of the ADA. 28 C.F.R. Pt. 36, App. B at 587. Finding, “Places of public accommodation operated in mobile facilities, such as cruise ships... [to be] covered under this part, and... Included in the definition of ‘facility.” Title III Technical Assistance Manual III-1.2000(D) (1994 Supp.). Cruise ships, which typically contain many if not all of these kinds of establishments, function as one or more of the types of places of public accommodations enumerated in 42 U.S.C. §12181(7). As the Department of Transportation cogently observed, making its own determination that cruise ships are places of public accommodation, “Cruise ships are self-contained floating communities.” Further, this law covers cruise ships sailing under foreign flags, or registered in foreign countries; none of which exempt these ships from valid laws of countries where they do business.
As a result, older cruise ship owners are expected to bring their facilities into 2010 ADA compliance by retrofitting areas which does not impede the safe operation of the ship. These areas include public spaces and a number of guest cabins; allowing persons with disabilities to experience the same joyful use of amenities and mobility on, around and off the ship as travelers without disabilities.
In 2015 and beyond, cruise ship travel for persons with disabilities will be limitless. Many cruise lines are awaiting the delivery of new cruise ships which are built in compliance with 2010 ADA laws. Learn the names of cruise lines that plan to float new ships and when by reading “USA Today’s guide to cruise ships on order” by Gene Sloan.