Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
In the Matter of
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Passenger Vessels
Docket No. 2004-1
TELECOMMUNICATIONS FOR THE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING, INC.;
ASSOCIATION OF LATE-DEAFENED ADULTS, INC.;
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THE DEAF; AND
DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING CONSUMER ADVOCACY NETWORK;
Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (“TDI”), through undersigned counsel, Association of Late-Deafened Adults, Inc. (“ALDA”), National Association of the Deaf (“NAD”), and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (“DHHCAN”) (collectively, the “Consumer Groups”) hereby submit their comments in response to the request of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the “Board”) for public comment on the draft guidelines on accessibility for passenger vessels which are permitted to carry more than 150 passengers or more than 49 overnight passengers, all ferries regardless of size and passenger capacity, and certain tenders which carry 60 or more passengers.
I. THE COMMENTING PARTIES
TDI is a national advocacy organization that promotes equal access to telecommunications and media for the 28 million Americans who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, late- deafened, or deaf-blind so that they may attain the opportunities and benefits of the telecommunications revolution to which they are entitled.1 TDI believes that only by ensuring equal access for all Americans will society benefit from the myriad skills and talents of persons with disabilities.
Formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1987, ALDA works collaboratively with other organizations around the world serving the needs of late-deafened people. Through its chapters and groups around the country, ALDA promotes public and private programs designed to alleviate the problems of late-deafness and for reintegrating late-deafened adults into all aspects of society. ALDA also provides educational information concerning issues affecting late-deafened adults, as well as advocacy on behalf of, and support for, late-deafened adults and their families and friends.
DHHCAN, established in 1993, serves as the national coalition of organizations2 representing the interests of deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind citizens in public policy and legislative issues relating to rights, quality of life, equal access, and self-representation. DHHCAN also provides a forum for proactive discussion on issues of importance and movement toward universal, barrier-free access with emphasis on quality, certification, and standards.
Established in 1880, the NAD is the nation’s oldest and largest constituency organization safeguarding the accessibility and civil rights of 28 million deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened, and deaf-blind Americans in a variety of areas, including education, employment, health care, and telecommunications. A private, non-profit organization, the NAD is a dynamic federation of state associations and organizational affiliates and direct members. Primary areas of focus include grassroots advocacy and empowerment, captioned media, deafness-related information and publications, legal rights technical assistance, policy development and research, and youth leadership development. The NAD works closely with deafness related national organizations and is a member of several coalitions representing the interests of deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened, and deaf-blind individuals.
The draft guidelines on accessibility include a number of provisions that will result in greater accessibility of passenger vessels for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, the Consumer Groups have identified a number of changes that need to be made or omissions that need to be corrected to provide even greater access.
A. Safety and Emergency Matters
V215 and V806.3.1 require that emergency alarm systems “comply with principles of best practice.” This statement is too vague to provide guidance on the emergency alarm needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The provisions should explain that although best practices change over time, examples of emergency alarms used today to alert people who are deaf or hard of hearing include vibrator alarms placed in beds as well as flashing lights in the guest rooms, bathrooms and common areas.
In addition V215.1 includes an exception to the requirement until such time as an existing alarm system is upgraded or replaced, or a new alarm system is installed. Permitting such an exception for guest rooms that are required to comply with V224.4 (guest rooms with communications features) is dangerous, because people who are deaf or hard of hearing would have no effective alarm system to alert them to an emergency. At the very least, guest rooms with communications features should be required to have emergency alarms designed for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and the exception should not apply once the rules take effect.
In addition, because people who are deaf or hard of hearing will not hear emergency announcements, passenger vessels should be required to issue emergency text pagers or Personal Digital Assistants (“PDAs”) with keyboards to enable two-way communications to all passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing. These text pagers or PDAs should vibrate in an emergency and display text messages with the same information that is provided by the verbal emergency announcement. The text pagers or PDAs would have the added benefit of generally facilitating communications between the passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing and the ship’s crew.
The proposed rules do not have any special procedures for evacuation of people who are deaf. The rules should require that information and training for the mandatory lifeboat drill must be accessible to all deaf and hard of hearing passengers by captioning. Information and training may include an invitation for people with disabilities to report to designated evacuation staging areas in the event of an emergency so that they can be escorted or assisted to their lifeboat“muster” station.
The proposed rules do not address the need for captioning availability for emergency training videos or television messages. For the safety of people who are deaf or hard of hearing, it is imperative that all emergency related training videos and television messages be openly captioned if displayed on television sets in public areas and have closed captioning available in guest rooms with communications features. This should also be the case for all emergency messages sent over the television. We discuss below the more general need for captioning.
B. Assistive Listening Systems
V219.2 provides that each assembly area and public seating area where audible communication is integral to the use of the space must have an assistive listening system. However, an exception is provided for areas where audio amplification is not provided. This exception is problematic, because there are many instances where amplification is not used, but an assistive listening system is needed for people who are hard of hearing. For example, the children’s camp area may not have audio amplification, but a child who is hard of hearing may be unable to participate in the activities without the benefit of an assistive listening system.
V.703.7.2.2 calls for signs using the International Symbol of Hearing Loss to identify assistive listening systems. However, these signs can cause confusion, because the signs as proposed do not have anything to identify them with an assistive listening system in particular as opposed to something else such as the availability of captioning or an interpreter. To avoid such confusion, Janice L. Schacter on behalf of the Hearing Access Program proposed that the ear symbol with a “T” be used as is done in some other countries. The Consumer Groups support the proposal made by the Hearing Access Program.
Advisory 706.1 General does not include a discussion of the benefits of induction loops as was done for infrared and FM assistive listening systems. An induction loop permits a passenger whose hearing aid contains a telecoil to use the system simply by switching the hearing aid to the telecoil setting. No additional equipment is needed.
V806.3 does not call for assistive listening systems to be available in the rooms with communications features. This omission needs to be corrected so that people who are hard of hearing can watch television or videos without the need to turn the volume to a level that might be too loud for other passengers in the same room or other guests in nearby rooms. Instructions should be included with the devices.
Chapter 11 does not call for assistive listening systems to be available on tenders. This omission needs to be corrected so that people who are hard of hearing can receive instructions when tenders are used to transport passengers to and from the shore for excursions or in the case of an emergency. In the case of an emergency, the need for assistive listening systems becomes a critical safety issue.
The proposed regulations do not call for testing the assistive listening devices prior to the start of a performance. Because it is impractical to correct a faulty assistive listening device once the performance is underway, it is important to require that the devices be tested with the users just prior to each performance.
Lastly, the rules should require that a sufficient number of the ship’s personnel be trained in the use of assistive listening systems. Without such training, simply having such systems on board would not be helpful.
C. Telephone Systems
In order to meet the compatibility requirements of Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 255, and to make it possible for people who wear hearing aids to use the telephones, the regulations should require that all telephones in all public areas and in all guest rooms be hearing aid compatible and conform to the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) found at 47 C.F.R. §§ 68.3, 68.4, 68.112, 68.316 and 68.317. The hearing aid compatibility requirement should apply to all guest rooms because there are many people who use hearing aids who only need a telephone that is hearing aid compatible. Therefore, they would not need to request a guest room with other communications accessibility features.
V217.2 does not have a requirement for video phones in public places. Although, V806.3.2 requires certain compliance features for telephones in guest rooms “to facilitate the use of a TTY,” it does not require that a TTY or a video phone be made available. This omission is inconsistent with the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), PL 101-336, July 26, 1990, codified in part at 47 U.S.C. § 225, which requires telecommunications for people with hearing and/or speech impairments that are functionally equivalent to voice telephone service. Therefore, the regulations should require that (i) in addition to a TTY, one video phone be installed wherever there are public telephones, and (ii) a TTY and a video phone be installed in each guest room with communications features. Although TTYs are the traditional method by which people who are deaf or hard of hearing make telephone calls using telecommunications relay services, video phones permit people who are deaf to engage in a telephone conversation in real time, without the delays of typing a text message, using American Sign Language (“ASL”), which is the native language for many people who are deaf. As a result, video phones are becoming the primary means of telephone communications for many people who are deaf.
V705, which addresses two-way communications systems, should require that the office,
front desk or ship operator be equipped with a TTY phone so that guests who are deaf or hard of
hearing and cannot use a voice telephone can make calls to receive various services (on a 24/7
basis if other guest calls are answered on a 24/7 basis) as well as assistance in the event of an
emergency. Not only does this make it possible for guests to receive room service, obtain
information, or have other needs taken care of, it is a critical safety measure in the event of an
emergency. The rule should also require that all operators and other personal who answer guest
calls be trained in the use of the TTY.
Lastly, all TTYs and video phones should come with instructions for their use, including instructions on how to call the ship’s operators, other personnel who respond to passenger calls, and other deaf or hard of hearing passengers with TTYs in their cabins.
The proposed rules do not address the need for captioning. We already discussed above the critical safety need for all emergency training videos and emergency announcements made over the television to have open captioning in the public areas and closed captioning in the guest rooms with communications features. In addition, people who are deaf or hard of hearing cannot enjoy television shows and videos in their rooms or movies and other programs shown in public areas without captioning. Therefore, all televisions, movies and other audio visual displays in public areas should be required to have open captioning upon the request of a passenger who is deaf or hard of hearing, and all televisions in rooms with communications features and all videos available for passenger use should have closed captioning available.
E. Availability of Spare Equipment
The proposed rules do not address the availability of spare equipment. Yet, when a vessel is out at sea, there would be no ability to obtain spare equipment unless it is on board. The rules therefore should require that vessels have on board spare assistive listening systems and devices, closed caption television sets, TTYs and video phones, and other required devices.
F. Availability of Interpreters and Real-Time Captioning
The proposed rules do not include any requirements for interpreters or real-time captioning. This is consistent with Access Board guidance in other contexts. We propose that to the extent it does, the Access Board indicate its deference to the guidance and jurisdiction of other agencies (U.S. Department of Justice and/or U.S. Department of Transportation), with respect to the provision of auxiliary aids and services that may be required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure effective communication and an equal opportunity to participate in the programs and services of the passenger vessel.
G. Wireless Devices
Wireless data devices, such as laptops and text pagers or PDAs have become an important means of communication for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Yet the proposed rules do not address wireless devices. Information about the wireless services available, including their rates, should be provided to all passengers, including people who are deaf or hard of hearing, upon boarding. The rate information is important to provide, because many international areas have extremely high wireless rates.
H. General Procedures
In general, vessel service providers should be required to ensure that qualified individuals with a disability, including people with hearing loss, have appropriate and effective visual, auditory or tactile access to the same information the carrier provides to other passengers. This would include, but is not limited to, information concerning ticketing, check-in, scheduled departure and arrival times, delays or changes, vessel changes, weather conditions, beverage and menu information, boarding information, connections, port assignments or changes, checking of luggage or vehicles, weather, and the availability of frequent user benefits, individuals being paged, and emergencies. In this regard, vessel personnel should be trained to communicate in a clear, understandable manner through appropriate visual, auditory or tactile communications modes with individuals with a disability, including people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Promotional materials for passenger lines, whether the materials are brochures or other printed material or on the Internet, should be required to include information regarding the availability of accommodations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The items to be mentioned in the promotional materials should include, among other items, assistive listening systems, closed and open captioning, notification systems, TTYs and video phones, and the availability of interpreters. The promotional materials may also state a reasonable amount of advance notice preferred to make arrangements for these items.
In addition, vessels should be required to include information about equipment and services available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to participate equally in scheduled activities announced on bulletin boards and/or distributed through the ship’s newsletters. In other words, the same media used to announce activities to passengers should include information on the equipment and services that are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
For the reasons discussed herein, the Consumer Groups propose that the draft ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Passenger Vessels be modified as discussed above.
Claude L. Stout
Telecommunications for the Deaf
and Hard of Hearing, Inc.
8630 Fenton Street, Suite 604
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Consumer Advocacy Network
3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130
Fairfax, VA 22030
Association of Late-Deafened Adults, Inc.
8038 MacIntosh Lane
Rockford, IL 61107
Paul O. Gagnier
Eliot J. Greenwald
Philip J. Macres
Bingham McCutchen LLP
2020 K Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
Counsel to Telecommunications for the Deaf
and Hard of Hearing, Inc.
Nancy J. Bloch
Chief Executive Officer
National Association of the Deaf
8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Dated: November 16, 2006
1 TDI educates and encourages consumer involvement regarding legal rights to telecommunications accessibility; provides technical assistance and consultation to industry, associations, and individuals; encourages accessible applications of existing and emerging telecommunications and media technologies in all sectors of the community; advises on and promotes the uniformity of standards for telecommunications technologies; works in collaboration with other disability organizations, government, industry, and academia; develops and advocates national policies that support accessibility issues; and publishes “The GA-SK” quarterly news magazine and the annual Blue Book, TDI National Directory & Resource Guide for Equal Access in Telecommunications and Media for People Who Are Deaf, Late-Deafened, Hard-of-Hearing or Deaf-Blind.
2 The member organizations of DHHCAN include the American Association of the Deaf- Blind (AADB), the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association (ADARA), the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA), the American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC), the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), Deaf Seniors of America (DSA), Gallaudet University, Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA), National Association of the Deaf (NAD), National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA), National Catholic Office of the Deaf (NCOD), Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc.(TDI), USA Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF), and The Caption Center/WGBH.