Office of Technical and Information Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Wendella Sightseeing Co. Inc., a member of the Passenger Vessel Association, submits these comments regarding your efforts to develop accessibility guidelines for passenger vessels, as published in the Federal Register of November 26, 2004. Please include these comments in the official record of both of your dockets as well as the corresponding U.S. Department of Transportation Docket.
Wendella Sightseeing Co. Inc. is a private-family owned company which began operation in Chicago 1935. We currently have six vessels which operate sightseeing tours, private charters and passenger ferry service. We have two 65’ vessels with a capacity of 217 passengers and four others which range in length from 38’-65’ with a passenger capacity of 74-140. These vessels operate on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan and are less than a mile from shore. We have two dock locations which are leased from both public and private entities. We are a seasonal business operating between April and November with approximately 100 employees in peak season. We annually carry approximately 300,000 passengers.
Wendella does not have a great deal of experience in dealing with passengers with disabilities. Probably less than one percent of our passengers have disabilities. This is mainly due to the fact that our dock in not accessible to people with disabilities. This is owned by the City of Chicago. Generally we will assist people down the stairs but there are 75 stairs to get to our dock and most are uncomfortable with our assistance; or we refer them to another company which doesn’t have stairs. Our hope is that the City of Chicago will help us with our accessibility issues.
Most of our vessels are older and do not have aisles wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and the washrooms are too small as well. In addition there are USCG required sills or combing at the base of the doorways into these washrooms which make it very difficult or impossible for a wheelchair to get over even if it was large enough. We have however constructed a vessel with accessible washrooms and wheelchair lift to accommodate people with disabilities and plan to construct another new vessel next year which will be accessible. To modify our older vessels to become accessible would not be cost effective because of the expense and loss of passenger capacity. The vessels are simply too small to accommodate major changes.
I am aware that the Passenger Vessel Association has been in frequent contact with the Access Board regarding this rulemaking, including testifying at public hearings three times in 2005. I support the following points that PVA has stressed in its comments:
Thank you for this opportunity to participate in your rulemaking process.
Wendella Sightseeing Co., Inc.
400 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611