Ms. Brunson: Good morning. Thank you very much for the opportunity to make a few comments before you. I feel a little bit like I'm not really sure whether I need a trend setter or what.
Everybody so far has been representative of the industry. I am here to represent passenger.
Again, my name is Melanie Brunson, and I represent the American Council of the Blind. Our organization has thousands of members across the country and they use passenger vessels of all types that operate on a wide variety of water ways throughout the nation we sail. in some of the smallest vessels such as you heard discussed earlier.
I can personally attest to that. One cruise, which I can't personally attest to yet but I have talked to a lot of our members who have and we use a variety of other types of vessels of all kinds and sizes, for transportation, for recreation, for work, pleasure.
Our members are very aware of both the challenges faced by passengers and the vessel operators in attempting to address the accessibility issues of passenger with disabilities. We have been pleased with the efforts of the Access Board to address these issues.
And we recognize this has been a challenging task for both the Access Board and industry and by the way, we believe that some significant efforts have already been made by the industry to address them.
We need to we do commend those. However, there is still a lot to do. The biggest concerns visually, impaired travelers have with regard to vessels of any type involve the ability to Board the vessel, the ability to move about it safely once embarkation has been completed and the ability to disembark the vessel safely. And as well as access to information during and about all of these processes.
A variety of the traditional practices aboard vessels present hazards for the visually impaired traveler. For instance, coming on threshold can be tripped over by some one whose vision does not allow them to see it to detect their presence.
Objects mounted on walls to save space can present similar problems. Where such items are necessary, the industry should be encouraged to make them more visible through the use of high contrast colors and whenever possible, hazard on the ground such as sudden changes, incline which happen frequently may Board ships should be proceeded by warnings of some sort as well as a high contrast color surface.
This is particularly true in areas of embarkation and debarkation where sudden inclines are a huge factor.
It is commendable that many vessel operators are increasingly sensitive to this problem and have increased the availability of crew assistance to passengers in navigating these obstacles but the need for such a assistance should be minimized so that visually impaired passengers can access the various phases of vessel travel as independently as possible.
We believe this is the best interest of both the passengers and the crew members.
Lack of signage throughout ships continues to be a concern. This is true of signage on state rooms, and signage on elevators, particularly on cruise ships.
We support the Access Board's proposed rules regarding signage and we hope that methods will be forthcoming soon to make it possible for blind and visually impaired travelers to have adequate information about transitory aspects of travel such as the location and appropriate operation of elevators and information related to boarding and debarkation vessels.
We are aware that there are technological difficulties that make it difficult to address these issues, but we recognize that situations vary with tides and other factors.
But we would like to see further work done to tackle these issues.
One thing that can be used to provide greater access to this type of information as well as other information about thing that is are going on aboard vessels most any size is well, maybe not most any size but particularly, the larger ones that use closed circuit TV and radio, these systems could be used much more effectively to provide passengers with audible information about the kinds of items that I discussed here, the location, the changes in location of boarding or disembarkation areas as well as a lot of other information that is available to passengers about materials or other signage that is currently inaccessible to people with visual impairment. And we believe this would actually benefit not just people with visual impairments but the customers and passenger as well.
We appreciate the Access Board's guidance on terminals and issues related to ticketing and other machines such as ATM's.
We believe that all aspects of the travel involved in vessel transportation including the terminals should be accessible to all passengers and we appreciate the comments in the proposed rules with regard to this aspects of travel.
We want to thank both the industry and the Access Board for working with us to increase the accessibility of passenger vessels to all passengers and we look forward to being partners in seeing that this trend grows and that our access to all phases of travel increases to all phases of travel increases as our numbers increase.
As the population grows older, there is going to be an increase in the number of passengers who have disabilities of all types and we believe that our share of market that is valuable to you just as you are valuable to our ability to maintain a well rounded lifestyle.
So it is our hope that we will work together to address these issues. And I will be happy to answer any questions the Board may have with me at the end of the testimony period. Thank you very much again.