MS. POMERANTZ: And I will try to be much quicker. Mitch said a lot of what I was going to say. I am Donna Pomerantz. I'm a member of California Council of the Blind and American Council of the Blind. And living in between both worlds, as I call it, being partially sighted or vision-impaired and things changing on a regular basis, definitely signage is an issue.
I think I encountered more of a problem this time on this cruise than on our first. In this day when everyone is getting a little more fancy and doing things with lighting and signage, changes in colors and gets brighter and more faint, it is extremely difficult for a person who is partially sighted to read signage that constantly changes or has lots of fancy fonts and things like that. Mitch briefly mentioned the elevators.
And for some of us the high contrast with the white lighting on the buttons works really well, and other times, the verbal, letting you know what floor you're on or the beeping as you go up and down the elevator, those are very wonderful things.
The transition from ship to shore or ship to tender, I think for myself personally that is the most Number stressful time for me on a cruise because of the fact that there isn't always the high contrast or even the contrast that lets you know you're definitely on the right path, so to speak.
And once you have that -- and I believe Ray showed it, I think, on his PowerPoint, when you have the little -- where you descend a little bit and you are now on the tender, in some cases there are no railings there. And so you are going down. And there is no railing, and there's a friendly hand at the other end trying to help you down on the tender. Also having balance issues and lack of depth perception because I have vision in one eye, that is a very stressful time.
If there was the rail extension right there at that plate as well, I would still be holding on to the rail and moving with the whole thing, so to speak.
Once I am on the tender itself, you usually have a step or two so that you can get on to the main part of the floor to find your seat. Usually they're light in color and everything blends and you really cannot see the step, at least that's been my experience so far on the cruises that we've been on. That's quite difficult.
And again, I definitely would be in support of the contrast and the detectible boardings and the surfaces where you don't have the possibility of the slip-and-fall. The main thing for myself, I was very pleased in seeing Section 508 guidelines mentioned, the standards.
I am an advocate for technology and a great fan of technology, and I know that it's going in places that we probably have no clue where it's going yet, but it's definitely getting there. And I think that it is extremely important so that blind and partially sighted people can continue to be included in taking cruises and so on and so forth, that the technology as it grows, you continue to keep the accessibility in mind in the beginning and the following of the Section 508 standards, because it's much easier and less expensive to implement the accessibility features within all technology in the beginning than trying to retrofit something in the end.
So that is also truly something that I am pleased to see and definitely the American Council of the Blind is in support of that. I echo what Mitch said on that. I know I am forgetting something, but I think I will call it a day and open it up for any questions.
MR. [GARY] TALBOT [BOARD MEMBER]: Thank you, Donna. Excuse me. I have a question for you. On your comment about getting onto the tender vessel and the transition plate that you mentioned, so what you're saying if I understand you correctly, if it had handrails on both sides, that would have been a much less stressful event for you to get across that small bridge to get on to that tender vessel.
MS. POMERANTZ: Yes. If it had the extended handrails, and also because of the fact that I have a lack of depth perception, there is no contrast. It blends in with the main part of your ramp. So I don't know where the end is or where either side is because there is no contrast in color or detectible warning. So definitely the rails in combination with the tactile and contrast warnings would definitely alleviate my stress, and I am sure that of others who are partially sighted as well.
MR. TALBOT: Thank you very much. Any other questions?
MR. [W. ROY] GRIZZARD [BOARD MEMBER]: I appreciate your testimony. And this question you might not be able to answer because I don't know what your level of your residual vision is, but in terms -- and this does not relate to some of the more pressing questions of access on gangways and things of that nature, but it's more of, I suppose, of a convenience thing for the cruise lines as well as perhaps reading safety instructions and things of that nature, and as the previous witness said, there are those that are not legally blind but certainly are taking cruises more and more and have limited vision. That was the preface to my question, which is, did you find the contrast in menus, safety directions that are written out, those types of things, that would actually enhance the cruise line as they send out everything from brochures to have sufficient contrast and a font that was large enough to read.
MS. POMERANTZ: I have to say that the experience has been very good. We received a lot via e-mail beforehand that we were able to read. Once we arrived, we did receive Braille for Mitch and large print for myself. And it was very well done. We even received a description of the layout of the ship. Unfortunately, my memory is not that good and so I needed to rely a lot on the signage, which wasn't a good thing for me.
But all the written material that we received was very accessible and easy to read and the fonts, size and style, it was extremely accessible. And I will just say, I have just enough vision to be dangerous and get anyone in trouble who is following me.
MR. TALBOT: Any other questions?
MR. [JAMES] ELEKES [BOARD MEMBER]: I want to follow up on the question of the transition plate for clarification. So if the transition plate is of a dark color, you would have preferred the handrails to be of sufficient contrast in a lighter color so that it would not only provide you directional capability, but you would know where the handrail actually ends?
MR. POMERANTZ: Actually, I don't know how doable that is. I am sure it is with paint and everything. And that would definitely also provide assistance. However, at that plate where that slope happens off the main ramp, you are dealing with a lot of different issues at that point. Changing in slope, balance, trying to figure out where it ends.
And if that rail continued all the way following the plate and the high contrast with the color would also provide assistance. But I know that I myself -- and only having vision from one eye, I am focusing more on where my feet are going and looking at the end so that I don't fall off or from side to side. So the high contrast and it ending at the end of the plate would truly provide a greater amount of assistance.
MR. ELEKES: Please forgive this if it sounds picky. But rather would it be beneficial, would you prefer, as an individual, rather than having a solid color as to the grab rail and of course contrasting, perhaps that it be striped or something to indicate that it's there, it's readily accessible? What would give you the greatest level of comfort with those grab rails to identify them so that you know you're not going any further than there and you can be assured you're grabbing on to something that's firm?
MS. POMERANTZ: As an individual, stripes make things a little difficult for me. And again, that's my individual vision issues. So those -- the stripes would create a problem. I have a slight nystagmus as well, so they start moving all over the place. And that's just my personal vision issue. I would have trouble with the stripes.
The solid bright color or the solid color that is of definite contrast to the rest of the environment is individually more helpful. And I have heard that from other persons with vision impairments as well.
MR. TALBOT: Thank you very much. Any other questions? Thank you. Really appreciate it.
MR. TALBOT: Thank you very much. Does anybody have any questions? Thank you very much. I appreciate it. We've got a few minutes left. Is there anybody in the audience that would like to come up and has any comments or anybody that presented earlier that would like a couple more minutes? We have a little more time left. If not, we can go ahead and end.
MR. GRIZZARD: One quick question. This is actually a question for Donna and Mitch. We talked earlier about requiring a trained staff or trained crew of the operators to assist disabled persons. And I know that when we were talking about that, I think we were principally referencing people with disabilities. Is it an acceptable position for on/off transition for the vessels, to you as people with sight impairments, is it acceptable to require a crew to also assist you in those things, because I know that the presumption, I think from what you have provided, was that you would have independent access?
MR. POMERANTZ: Again, I think the issue you're dealing with is you are dealing with people at all skill levels of function, functionality. You have folks like myself and Donna who have been blind or visually impaired most of our lives. But we are increasingly dealing with older folks who don't have the experience. So the old line is it never hurts to ask, it never hurts to have folks who are trained and can provide whatever level of assistance the individual requires.
MS. POMERANTZ: And that's what I would say as well. I think crews should be trained to ask "Do you need help? Do you need any assistance?" Sometimes we'll say we're fine and other times we'll say, "Yes, please."
The difficulty is that you do have well-meaning crew who may see you heading toward an area of danger or whatever, and they will come and just start pulling you to another area, and that is very disorienting to a person with a vision impairment. So the best training would be to ask because every single one of us is different.
My quick question is -- not question, actually. I forgot to mention the on shipboard, you have these -- when you're leaving the inside of the ship going on to deck, you have these -- I call them little square steps or something to that effect. And there's a difficulty because there is not enough contrast with those. And I know there's a name for them. I just can't think of the name for them.
That, I think, is even more of a hazard even to our senior population because they may not be walking around using a cane or something and find it. And sometimes I use my cane and sometimes I don't, and I found them in difficult ways sometimes, so that would definitely be an assistance to have this contrast with them as well.
MR. TALBOT: Thank you, again.
MS. POMERANTZ: Again, we are here to provide assistance. Please contact us. If you have any further questions, we're definitely eager to provide assistance.
MR. TALBOT: Thank you, again.