New ADA Protections on Ships and Boats - Share Your Views with the DOT

Last week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) released new federal rules extending Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections to passengers with disabilities aboard ships and boats. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) participated in the development of these groundbreaking rules. For the next 90 days, the DOT is welcoming comments about these new rules. This is your chance to support NAD in our efforts to make passenger vessels accessible.

The NAD is excited that the DOT has decided to announce the first federal rule to provide ADA protections aboard boats and ships. Here are some important things you need to know about the new rules.

Where am I protected against discrimination because I am deaf or hard of hearing?

  • On any publicly owned transportation vessel, such as a public ferry.
  • On any private boat whose main purpose is to transport people, such as a cruise ship.
  • The new rules do NOT apply if you are on a private boat which provides another important service in addition to transportation, such as fishing charters and dinner cruise boats. However, Department of Justice ADA rules cover those services.

What rights do I have under the new law?

  • You cannot be denied access to a boat because you are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • You cannot be charged for accessibility related services.
  • The company cannot force you to bring your own attendant or interpreter.
  • The company must provide you with information about accessibility services, and must have a knowledgeable person on staff to help you with questions about those services.
  • If you are provided with a TV on the boat, it must be able to display closed captions.
  • Safety information must be provided to you in an accessible manner.
  • Like the ADA, the company must provide "auxiliary aids and services" for effective communication, unless this is an "undue burden." This includes interpreters, captioning, hearing-aid compatible phones, and other devices/services.
  • The new rules do not cover building or modifying ships to make them physically accessible.  Construction guidelines for physical accessibility are being developed.

Why should I comment?
Please thank the DOT for their efforts. Tell the DOT that - as a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community - you support the new rules. The new rules created by the DOT will ensure that you can buy cruise, boat or ferry tickets; enjoy access to services while on board; and understand safety information. 

The NAD played an important part in creating these new rules. Now, by sharing your views with the DOT, you can help make sure that these rules serve us best and become models for future changes in other areas. Build on this success and keep pushing for equal access!