To: Office of Technical and Information Services, Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, 1331 F Street, NW., suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004-1111
Fr: Jan C. Miles, Master Oceans 500 GRT, Steam, Motor or Auxiliary Sail. Issue #3. 520 Sylvan Way, Pasadena, MD 21122 (410) 255-7987 <email@example.com>
Re: Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Passenger Vessels; Small Vessels
To whom it may concern,
The history of American Sailing Watercraft is being put under threat of future viability by the pending requirements contained in the discussion of ADA Guidelines for (new construction of) Passenger Vessels; vessels that fall mainly under Sub-Chapter C and T with a few falling under R, and therefore are less than 100 GRT with only a few between 100 and 200 GRT.
The resurrection from near complete demise of American Historical Sailing Watercraft since World War II has been due mostly to the ability to address the interests of the adventure minded and participatory public. Not at all to the public interested only in gaining a unique view to a certain site or to the public interested in getting to/from any location.
Requiring any new construction of a "classical" small passenger sailing vessel to meet specific guidelines to accommodate the ADA population will have a distorting effect on the effort to resurrect and preserve the historical American Sailing Watercraft. While the reproduction historical sailing vessel is already affected by safety regulations, there is no actual construction impact for those projects looking to represent a vintage type of sailing watercraft. Hence they continue to be built because they can meet safety regulations and thus are approved for passenger work and are thus able to earn their keep while still emulating the American sailing watercraft history. Forcing upon these craft that are not performing a strictly transportation service but rather a "at will" participatory service to also accommodate the special ADA population will perforce distort any effort towards authentic representation of American Sailing Watercraft. This forced or regulated modification will also raise cost of construction and make the return on investment a longer cycle, quite possibly longer enough to reduce the attraction for building a historical type sailing vessel. Thus, instead of being able to continue to preserve the American Historical Watercraft through new construction of close historical representation, there will be a slow drift away from the closely historically representative to something modern.
It is well proven in the United Kingdom that a modern designed but classically square-rigged sail vessel built with ADA needs in mind is an excellent means for getting the "want to be sailors" of that special population to sea safely. (Two vessels with specially trained personnel and a high crew to passenger ratio of 1-1 when also counting the volunteer full time buddy that goes with most if not all of the ADA passenger in those vessels).
What is also well proven is that the ADA person interested in going to sea in a small traditional sail vessel wants to participate as a sailor rather than merely be a passenger. Closing the opportunity for a group or individual to go into the sailing ADA "business" because all new small sail vessel construction is required to provide such access will be a barrier to the development of new business, while at the same time blocking continuing development in businesses that are also preserving the many 'original aspects' of American Historical Sailing Watercraft.
It also cannot be over emphasized that the professional crew that more regularly handle non-ADA passengers are not in anyway automatically aware of the needs of the ADA passenger. The UK vessels referred to above have standing operational parameters that address the needs of their special clientele that is taught to the professional mariner they also need to warrantee safety of vessel operations. Meanwhile, whenever the existing traditional sailing watercraft population has been approached by an ADA interest, there are stories abounding of the effort to accommodate each and every request. I have personal experience with this process. Yet with over 30 years as a traditional sailing vessel sailor (25 years of which has been as captain of licensed sailing craft - I am also a member of the American Sail Training Association), I can count on one hand the number of times I have witnessed an ADA citizen requesting to be accommodated. Interestingly there is enough business in the UK to fill "year round" two vessels of special design.
I also submit that this approach of having regulations for providing access for all ADA citizens to have access to all certified passenger vessels regardless of actual service is "business constricting" rather than business encouraging. Required transportation and/or larger vessels certainly should accommodate and are proven to easily accommodate the special needs of the ADA citizen. However, for small sailing passenger vessels of historical representation in an "at will" participation business, being forced to design to special ADA Guidelines will be expensive, limiting and even when provided - under utilized for the effort. Ultimately these new regulations will begin to close the door on historical preservation of American Sailing Watercraft that has been experiencing a 40 plus year growth through providing nearly exact replication while accommodating modern safety regulations.
With the example of ADA population being provided high quality and entrepreneurial sailing opportunity in the UK without also forcing all classical sailing vessels of smaller size to provide such capability, it will no doubt be anti-business to have American maritime regulations that force the unique aspects of the small and historical based sailing vessel to accommodate the very special needs of the ADA population. Instead it would actually be pro-business to permit the small vessel category of vessels (Sub-Chapter C, T and R) to remain unfettered to respond directly to the no doubt growing market forces for the adventurous portions of the ADA population.
Jan C. Miles
cc: Peter A. Mello, Executive Director of American Sail Training Association