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SCOTUS rules on cruise line disability accomodations


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The Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that foreign flagged ships docking in US ports must still adhere to some of the ADA rules for passengers in wheelchairs:

 

 

http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/06/06/scotus.disabled.cruises.ap/index.html

 

Cruise ships must provide disabled access, high court rules

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that international cruise lines sailing in U.S. waters must provide better access for passengers in wheelchairs, expanding the scope of a landmark federal disabilities law.

 

The narrow 5-4 decision is a victory for disabled rights advocates, who said inadequate ship facilities inhibited their right to "participate fully in society."

 

"With this decision the Supreme Court has told the cruise lines that we are entitled to what every other passenger receives -- access to emergency equipment and the full range of public facilities," said Douglas Spector of Houston, one of the disabled passengers suing the cruise lines.

 

A spokeswoman for the International Council of Cruise Lines, based in Arlington, Virginia, said the group was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.

 

Congress intended the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act to apply to cruise lines, justices said.

 

"The statute is applicable to foreign ships in the United States waters to the same extent that it is applicable to American ships in those waters," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

 

Still, the ruling is unclear how much the $2.5 billion foreign cruise industry, two-thirds of whose passengers are Americans, will actually have to reconfigure pools, restaurants and emergency equipment for wheelchair accessibility, an upgrade that could cost the industry millions.

 

That's because Kennedy also writes that cruise lines need not comply with the ADA to the extent it creates too much international discord or disruption of internal affairs, under a provision of the statute that calls only for "readily achievable" modifications.

 

Three disabled passengers, who boarded Norwegian Cruise Lines in Houston in 1998 and 1999, say they paid premiums for handicapped-accessible cabins and the assistance of crew but the cruise line failed to configure restaurants, elevators and other facilities in violation of the ADA.

 

Norwegian Cruise Line countered that only an explicit statement of Congress can justify imposing the U.S. law on a ship that sails under a foreign flag, even if it is docked at a U.S. port. The federal law is silent as to whether foreign cruise lines are covered by the ADA.

Theron

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Great, now all the best lounge chairs closest to the pool will be reserved for handicapped only :rolleyes:

I don't have much of a problem with that as long as the number of chairs is reasonably (correctly) proportioned to the number of people who will actually use them.

 

It really irritates me to see resources needlessly reserved for people who are not there or who never use them.

 

At my work, we have a back door employee entrance that requires a badge to enter. It is at least a hundred yards on the opposite side of the building from the public entrance. We have no handicapped employees in our building, yet the two closest spaces to that back door are reserved. Due to the badged access (all visitors are required to go in the front), there is no way any handicapped person will ever use those spaces. Yet they sit there day after day wasted.

 

Ha.. there's a little vent for you, free of charge! And not even remotely related to cruising! :)

 

Theron

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I wonder what was not accessible for those passengers. I am all for reasonable accomodations, but not excessive ones. For example, some cabins should be designed as accessible, and they should be able to get to all major public areas. But we can't expect them to modify the pools for shallow entry, there's not enough space.

 

I was on Carnival Glory and can't remember anywhere that wasn't accessible except the suntanning deck and basketball court.

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Perhaps you didn't see any areas that were not accessible because you do not understand what accessible means.

 

I, for one, am tired of seeing 2 or 3 blue spaces hogged by able bodied people (or their drivers) as that are really not enough spaces in the first place.

 

My company would have said the same thing about not having any disabled people working there. Interesting that as soon as security started ticketing for parking in blue without a placard how the slots filled up with placard bearing employees.

 

Not every disabled person is in a wheelchair and not every disabled person is readily visible to you.

 

 

Perhaps before you talk about things like not having enuff room for shallow entry to a pool you should investigate what the actual options are for making areas accessible.

 

Re: all the chairs by the pool being reserved--I have deceded to believe that you are making a bad joke.

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A few of the issues from the law suit were:

 

1. Accessible cabins in reasonable numbers which allow booking in cheaper categories as well as more expensive ones. Most new ships are designed for this but some, particularly older ships, have a problem with it. It remains to be seen how this ruling will play out from a regulatory standpoint for older ship modification.

 

2. Common sense changes, like changing whether a door swings in or out, so that it allows room for a wheelchair. Not having areas, like the dance floor in a lounge, only accessible by steps (anyone who has been on the Regal Princess knows what I mean).

 

3. Availability of safety equipment for those with mobility problems.

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Regarding individuals misusing the privilage, I totaly agree with you msraye! I get so tired of seeing individules with the card/tags parking at places like the mall, only to see them walking for hours through the shops (if you can walk to shop for hours, you sure can walk a minute to your car).

 

For those who wish to flame me for this statement, Yes, on more than one occasion, I did see individuals exit there car, and see them strolling through the mall hours later when DW finaly released me, I mean, let us go home.

 

I've turned down my Dr's offer more than once for her note, as I don't see myself disabled to the extent of the INTENT of the law. DW only asks me why I don't get it, when she spots this behaviour in other drivers.

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My company would have said the same thing about not having any disabled people working there. Interesting that as soon as security started ticketing for parking in blue without a placard how the slots filled up with placard bearing employees.

Hi msraye,

 

I can't be sure, but it sort of sounds like you are referring to my little blurb from earlier. I can assure you that my story and my assertions are correct. There are only 35 people in our building, and I know all of them well enough to say that they aren't hiding any secret handicaps! :)

 

As I said, I don't object to proper usage of reserved spaces or resources, but it does really bother me when valuable resources are wasted for no benefit to anyone, handicapped or not.

 

As I said in my earlier post, it would be virtually impossible for the spaces reserved near our back door employee entrance to ever be used, unless or until we either hire a handicapped person, or one of our existing employees becomes handicapped. At that point, I would be the first to put up a sign.

 

Theron

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We have no handicapped employees in our building, yet the two closest spaces to that back door are reserved. Due to the badged access (all visitors are required to go in the front), there is no way any handicapped person will ever use those spaces. Yet they sit there day after day wasted.

 

I would comment on how stupid and foolish your statement is but everyone can see it for themselves.......

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We have no handicapped employees in our building, yet the two closest spaces to that back door are reserved. Due to the badged access (all visitors are required to go in the front), there is no way any handicapped person will ever use those spaces. Yet they sit there day after day wasted.

I would comment on how stupid and foolish your statement is but everyone can see it for themselves.......

Please enlighten me. "Everyone" apparently does not include me.

 

Do you mean that my conclusion that the spaces cannot be used is stupid and foolish? Or do you mean that it is stupid and foolish for me to object to spaces that sit all day long every day unused?

 

Thanks,

 

Theron

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Please enlighten me. "Everyone" apparently does not include me.

 

Do you mean that my conclusion that the spaces cannot be used is stupid and foolish? Or do you mean that it is stupid and foolish for me to object to spaces that sit all day long every day unused?

 

Thanks,

 

Theron

 

for you to say that spaces cannot be used or object to spaces that sit all day long unused, tell me that you do not really understand what it means to have a disability. Stupid and foolish could be the wrong words for me to use, but just because the spaces are not being used does not mean they should not be there. I don't know your buisness or who works there and who is able to use this door, but the reserved spots are there for a reason.

 

Bob P.

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for you to say that spaces cannot be used or object to spaces that sit all day long unused, tell me that you do not really understand what it means to have a disability. Stupid and foolish could be the wrong words for me to use, but just because the spaces are not being used does not mean they should not be there. I don't know your buisness or who works there and who is able to use this door, but the reserved spots are there for a reason.

 

Bob P.

Hi Bob,

 

Thanks, I appreciate you taking the time to explain.

 

I think you did miss my point. Several posts earlier I outlined the reasons why it was virtually impossible for anyone who is handicapped to use these spaces. The building is restricted access. Security regulations prohibit any visitors from using the door. Absolutely only current employees who are assigned to the building may use the door. None of these employees are handicapped. If anyone who was handicapped wanted to use those spaces, they would be required by security regulations to walk (or wheel, I suppose) at least 100 yards through the parking lot around to the complete opposite side of the building to go in the front door, where they would be processed in as a visitor.

 

The only way these spaces will ever be used is if or when we hire a handicapped person, or an existing employee becomes handicapped. And as I stated earlier, I would be the first to put up the sign. Until such a time, yes, I do maintain that it is silly to have these particular spaces reserved.

 

Theron

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Seems completely clear to me Theron.:D Bob doesn't seem to understand that code requires of all office buildings to have a set number of parking places as a percentage of total parking. To have to pay for a parking lot in which the best spaces are never parked in (which the owner of the building had to do) is what is wrong with all of this ADA insanity. this is just the tip of the iceburg of hidden costs and expenditures that our government handicaps its citizens with. It is this kind of bureaucratic BS that causes our economic system to fail to grow even faster. Remember a rising tide lifts all boats..... :) Nobody begrudges a real handicapped person an oppurtunity to participate as fully as possible, but why do all of the costs have to fall blindly on the entire society?:confused: JMHO and YMMV

 

jc

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Did you ever consider that a handicapped person might need to come to your building for one reason or another to conduct business with your company or see an employee?

 

Please enlighten me. "Everyone" apparently does not include me.

 

Do you mean that my conclusion that the spaces cannot be used is stupid and foolish? Or do you mean that it is stupid and foolish for me to object to spaces that sit all day long every day unused?

 

Thanks,

 

Theron

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Going back to the orig. post. My cousin is confined to a wheel chair. She can't stand at all, she has to transfer with a transfer board. Therefor she is in the wheel chair with the execption of bathroom and bed. Anyway my point is she went on her first cruise about 18 months ago and was delighted. She was able to get to all the activities she is able to do as well as total access in her cabin. Her and her husband are now booked on their 4th cruise. This is something she can do. All of the cruises are out of Galveston. RCCL, Princess, CCL. All three have gone out of their way to make her cruises enjoyable.

 

Another point on Handicaped parking. I have sever knee and back problems, but to look at me you would not think I was handicaped. I can't walk long distances. You will not see me walking the mall. I may go with my daughter and grandson, but you will see me sitting on the nearest bench. As they shop I walk from one bench to the other. At the grocery store, wal-mart etc. I either use the scoter or use the cart to lean on. I do not have a handicaped cabin on cruises because I always feel there are others that need it more than I do. I don't think I take advantage of the Handicaped tags etc.

 

Joyce

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Does anybody actually read these threads before they reply?

 

SueInPhilly, please take a moment to scroll backwards a little bit to my post from late last night. I have explained twice now the reason that the answer to your question is "no".

 

Theron

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Going back to the orig. post. My cousin is confined to a wheel chair. She can't stand at all, she has to transfer with a transfer board. Therefor she is in the wheel chair with the execption of bathroom and bed. Anyway my point is she went on her first cruise about 18 months ago and was delighted. She was able to get to all the activities she is able to do as well as total access in her cabin. Her and her husband are now booked on their 4th cruise. This is something she can do. All of the cruises are out of Galveston. RCCL, Princess, CCL. All three have gone out of their way to make her cruises enjoyable.

 

Another point on Handicaped parking. I have sever knee and back problems, but to look at me you would not think I was handicaped. I can't walk long distances. You will not see me walking the mall. I may go with my daughter and grandson, but you will see me sitting on the nearest bench. As they shop I walk from one bench to the other. At the grocery store, wal-mart etc. I either use the scoter or use the cart to lean on. I do not have a handicaped cabin on cruises because I always feel there are others that need it more than I do. I don't think I take advantage of the Handicaped tags etc.

 

Joyce

Hi Joyce,

 

I'm glad to hear that your cousin was able to have such a good experience on a cruise! It is encouraging after all the bad stories, not only here, but elsewhere too.

 

I appreciate your mall story. I think overall, there are many more people with the attitude you have, "someone else can use it more than me", than there are people who take advantage of the system.

 

Theron

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joycemh, I'm glad to hear that your cousin had such a good experience cruising. I believe the lawsuit folks were complaining about NCL. I recall that one of their complaints was that their HC cabin was overpriced. Also, they thought they would have some sort of personalized service. I'm not sure about the validity of those particular complaints, quite frankly, and I'm not sure why US disability law applies to foreign-flagged vessels. Either way, it appeared to me that access on the cruises I have been on (only two) seemed fairly reasonable, assuming that the HC cabins were suitably equipped. Of course, I don't presume to understand all the challenges your cousin and other disabled individuals may face. Happy cruising to all.

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I would guess that the law applies to foreign-flagged vessels that want to use U.S. ports.

The essence of the case is exactly that. And according to the dissenting opinion, the debate over why the law applied to these ships is a large part of what the case was about.

 

The dissenting opinion basically said that despite the fact that Congress did not explicitly address foreign-flagged ships in US ports, the majority opinion used "creative statutory interpretation and piecemeal application of its provisions" ("it" being the ADA) to apply the law to these vessels.

 

So essentially, yes the majority (winning) opinion says that the law does apply to foreign-flagged ships. The dissenting (losing) opinion says that if Congress had wanted it to apply to these ships, they should have said so in the law itself.

 

Theron

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The lawyers will have feeding frenzy over this decision. If what is happening in CA with ADA lawsuits is any indication, the sharks can smell the blood in the water. There will be hundreds, if not thousands, of emotionally damaged potential cruise passengers who were unable to book an ADA compliant cabin to file a lawsuit for.:(

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Newer cruise ships have largely been designed to conform with US accessibility laws. Examples are automaticly opening doors to access the promonade deck (and get to the life boats), lower door sills, more ramps in lounges rather than stairs, and specially designed cabins. Some lines have been stingey in the numer of accessible cabins they provide, even on the newer ships. Some have as few as a half dozen on ships designed to carry 1800 or more passengers or have accessible cabins only in more expensive catagories. Even some new ships have problems. For instance the Princess Sun class ships do not have ramps in the main showroom so anyone who can't handle stairs is relagated to the back of the theater.

 

The older ships are the ones that cause the problems, and older isn't all that old. We generally know in advance when we are taking a cruise on a ship that has some accessiblity problems and are willing to deal with the inconvience in order to cruise a certain itinerary or get a cheap deal.

 

It remains to be seen if the older ships will have to be modified. That decision is up to the people who turn the courts decision into regulations.

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How truly snotty some people have become on these boards. Does anyone know how to have an interesting conversation about a controversial topic without making a personal attack? Try, just try, not using the word "YOU" when posting. Consider for a moment that the person whose post you are responding to may not be an ignorant fool and treat them with some respect.

 

Now I shall break my own rule and consider the rude direct answer posted following right after my earlier post.

 

Perhaps you didn't see any areas that were not accessible because you do not understand what accessible means.

Don't put words in my mouth. I did not say I did not see any areas, I said I wondered was was not accessible to them. I said I found all public areas to be accessible. All level entry, wide doors, elevator access, etc.

 

Not every disabled person is in a wheelchair and not every disabled person is readily visible to you.

I have an invisible disability. Access for me is not making me wait in a long line having to stand for more than 15 minutes. The ADA law does not include me, nor can it EVER include my and many other similar disorders.

 

Perhaps before you talk about things like not having enuff room for shallow entry to a pool you should investigate what the actual options are for making areas accessible.

I am an engineer. I can also list 5 specific accessibility modifications that can be made to pools. They all involve stairs or shallow entry and would have sizeable impact to the useable space of the small cruise ship pools.

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