The Board held a public hearing on guidelines for passenger vessels it is developing under the ADA on July 25th in Washington, D.C. The hearing focused on information the Board released last 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.
Reprentatives from various trade groups provided feedback and advice to the Board on how access to passenger vessels should be addressed. Testimony was received from the Passenger Vessel Association, the American Association of Port Authorities, the International Council of Cruise Lines, and the National Marine Charter Association, among others. Cruise line operators, including the Carnival Corporation, and disability groups, such as the American Council of the Blind, also provided testimony.
Most of the testimony received was specific to different segments of the industry or to aspects of vessel accessibility. Comments addressed coverage of landside facilities and recommended greater deliberation in addressing small vessels and charter boats. Input and information was received on provisions for boarding access, onboard emergency and evacuation procedures and the accommodation of passengers with disabilities, the occpuancy rates of accessible cabins, and the need for greater choice among cabin types for passengers with disabilities. Participants also addressed access for passengers with vision impairments, including hazards posed by coamings and other elements and the need for greater access along boarding routes and accessible signage.
The hearing was the last of three held during the comment period. Earlier hearings were held in D.C. last January and in Los Angeles at the end of June. At the January hearing, comment was received from the vessel industry and others on the need for more time to review the released information. In response, the Board extended the comment period four more months to July 28th and scheduled two additional hearings. The comments received by the Board, including those provided at hearings, are available for review.
Opening Remarks by Board Member Gary L. Talbot
Good morning. It is my pleasure to welcome you to this, the third hearing which the Access Board has held on access to passenger vessels this year. I am particularly pleased that this hearing is one of the events which the Board is holding in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the ADA. As many of you know, last November the Board published two documents simultaneously -- a Notice of Availability which addresses accessibility issues which are unique to larger vessels and an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which discusses accessibility issues for smaller vessels. Taken together, these two documents should provide us with a framework for a constructive discussion of the unique accessibility issues encountered in the passenger vessel environment. The Board held our first hearing on these two documents during January here in Washington and a second hearing in Los Angeles, California just last month. The comments and testimony we have received so far is on the Board’s website.
Why are these hearings important? I believe these hearings afford all of us with a unique opportunity to thoughtfully discuss some of the accessibility issues which are unique to passenger vessels. I am pleased that we have witnesses today from the passenger vessel industry as well as individuals and organizations representing persons with disabilities. Working together, I believe that we can craft accessibility guidelines which will enable individuals with disabilities to fully enjoy the many activities offered by both large and small passenger vessels.
And so I welcome you to this hearing. We look forward to what the witnesses have to say. The testimony from today will be added to that which we have already received. It too will be posted on our website. Finally, I would like to remind everyone that the public comment period closes on July 28. If you do not testify today but would like to offer written comments, that is the last day to submit your comments. Let us begin.
Gary L. Talbot of of Auburndale, Florida is a Senior Engineer with Walt Disney World Ride and Show Engineering in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Talbot joined Walt Disney World in late 2004 and has responsibility for the design and development of ride and attraction accessibility enhancements. Prior to joining Disney, Talbot was manager of the General Motors Mobility Center in Warren, Michigan. Talbot currently chairs the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Adaptive Devices Standards Committee (ADSC), which has responsibility for developing technical standards for adaptive devices used in personal use vehicles by persons with disabilities. Talbot, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, is active in various trade and civic organizations. He was appointed to the Board in 2004.
List of Testifiers