I am writing with serious regard to accessibility aboard cruise ships.
As a frequent traveler; I have witnessed too many instances where a passenger cannot disembark on his/her powered wheelchair or scooter because of the steep and too narrow incline of the ramp. It also has bumps which hamper the process of trying to help one maneuver the chair down the ramp. These chairs are much to heavy to pick up and carry down. Going "up" would be impossible.
It is sad to see a family split apart on a vacation because of this inaccessible ramp. The ports are wonderful to explore, and while many shops are not accessible...just getting off the ship can heighten the joy of the vacation.
The cruise lines do a wonderful job with the elevators and hallways and handicap accessible showers.
I have seen service dogs for the blind or sight impaired, and the Braille on the doors of the cabins and public rooms. It is accepted and all seem to understand their needs.
However, more CAN be done to make it safe and efficient for all.
My next and foremost concern is the fact there is not nearly enough communication accessibility or training for hard of hearing patrons. This is dangerous and unnecessary burden to be placed on those that cannot hear/understand the Captain's frequent announcements. I feel a scrolling sign with captions could be placed in different public locations so that one can read what is being announced. That could serve those who use sign language too!
There are no captions on the televisions in the cabins of most ships. With all the technology available today, there is no excuse for this. The cruise line insists it is because of satellite reception and/or the TV shows broadcast from other countries. Even the captain speaking on their own channel and activities for the day are not captioned! The remotes have no captioned button, nor are TV's equipped with the caption mode. There is no excuse to cut us off from the rest of the world news even if we are on "vacation." Especially in this day of unrest and turmoil in the world.
There are not enough ADA kits for those who need them. Nor is there a mention of the Assistive Listening Devices [ALD] for showtimes! Surely this accommodation could be included in the daily newsletter. When I suggested this aboard my last cruise...I was told it was not important and/or not enough room.
Even when an ADA kit is requested, it is often not placed in the room. A small door knocker/flasher, phone amplifier can make a hard of hearing person cruise more enjoyable and relaxing. Not knowing a cabin steward is entering the room after a knock is dangerous and humiliating.
Training employees to understand these needs would be a step in the right direction. No one knew what I was doing when I taped my door strobe knocker on the door:) Nor did the cabin steward know what the ADA kit was. Even after a call was made to the front desk, not one arrived. A note of my own on the door alerted people to knock hard.
The needs of the hard of hearing is invisible! Yet we strive to enjoy life as others do who can hear it all. A "Loop" device could be easily be set up in public rooms so the speakers announcements or the Emcee's voice can be heard directly to our ears just by setting our own hearing aids! No need for fifty ALD's to be passed out:)
The cruise industry is a wonderful, large important part of Florida's tourism attraction. Residents of Florida also frequent the cruise industry that in their own backyards!
To be out in the middle of the sea without the access to care for ourselves...and/or to address concerns or reach out to educated employees of the cruise line is dangerous and unrealistic.
The cost of a cruise is great considering all that one receives. However it should include effective communication to avoid potential life-threatening situations and enhance the enjoyment of cruising.
It would be an excellent idea to have a "steering" committee to oversee/discuss the needs of those with special needs. I propose a special advisory committee be formed to address the needs of those with disabilities.
I share this idea with the experience of working on other advisory boards as an individual with hearing loss.
"Thank you" for reading my letter. It is with great concern and love of the "Ladies at sea" and her passengers that prompted me to write.
Lynn Rousseau, President
Hearing Loss Association of Florida
1621 NW 103rd Terrace
Gainesville, Florida 32606