As the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act approaches--July 26--we are proud to announce today the first federal rule to specifically provide ADA protections to people with disabilities who travel on boats and ships.
This Administration is committed to protecting the rights of passengers with disabilities in all modes of transportation, and this new rule will extend that protection aboard maritime vessels.
It's the right thing to do.
The rule covers vessels, like public ferry systems, operated by public entities. It also covers vessels, like cruise ships, operated by private entities primarily for transporting people.
First and foremost, we want to make sure that boat and ship operators don't deny access to passengers based on their disability.
But we also want to make sure that those passengers, once aboard, are treated fairly. So this rule makes sure that passengers cannot be charged extra for accessibility-related services, and that passengers with disabilities are not required to furnish their own attendants. It requires boat and ship operators to inform passengers of vessel accessibility and services, and it requires operators to have a knowledgeable person available to help passengers with disabilities resolve their concerns.
Simply, this rule will make sure that operators' policies do not discriminate against passengers with disabilities. And that is as it should be.
Now, one thing this rule does not do is establish standards for building new vessels or altering existing vessels. Those standards will be developed by an independent agency, the Access Board, and eventually be adopted in future rulemaking.
This rule also doesn't apply to other private vessels that transport passengers while providing another key service, like charter fishing boats or dinner cruises. However, a Department of Justice rule will cover that group of operators.
- Should vessel operators be required to allow passengers with disabilities to bring emotional support animals on board?
- What requirements should operators follow concerning the use of mobility aids?
- What should be the relationship between DOT and DOJ disability rules?
I encourage everyone to visit www.regulations.gov and get their two cents in on these important questions. We want to hear from you.
In the meantime, I think this new rule is a terrific development. The folks at DOT have shown once again their concern for all Americans, and they have worked hard to craft a rule that ensures the kind of fair treatment that is a hallmark of our nation.