The Need for Passenger Vessel Accessibility Guidelines

Private entities, and State and local governments covered by the ADA must ensure that the facilities they build or alter are accessible to people with disabilities.  The Board’s guidelines specify the minimum level of accessibility in new construction and alteration projects and serve as the basis for enforceable standards maintained by other agencies. Currently, the Board’s guidelines focus on facilities provided on landside sites.  Passenger vessels are required to be accessible under the ADA, but no specific guidelines are currently available to inform the public about how to make them accessible to people with disabilities.  The Board’s draft guidelines are intended to provide a better understanding of what accessibility requirements would apply to passenger vessels.

Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee

To assist in this rulemaking effort, the Board created a 21-member advisory committee in 1998 to develop recommendations for passenger vessel accessibility guidelines.  The Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee (PVAAC) was made up of disability organizations, industry trade groups, State and local government agencies, and passenger vessel operators.  The committee held nine meetings between September 1998 and September 2000.  The committee submitted its final report “Recommendations for Accessibility Guidelines for Passenger Vessels” ( to the Board in December 2000.

Board’s Draft Passenger Vessel Guidelines

An ad hoc committee of Board members reviewed the PVAAC’s report in depth and prepared draft guidelines based on the PVAAC report.  The Board’s draft guidelines depart from the PVAAC’s report in several areas which are summarized in the discussion below.  Because of these differences, the Board is making an advance draft of the guidelines available for comment by the public.  The Board also seeks information and feedback, including usability and cost data.  Instructions on providing comment in writing or at a hearing to be held on November 9, 2004 are provided in a notice the Board published on the release of the draft guidelines.

Relationship of PVAAC Report and Board’s Draft Guidelines to Revised ADAAG

The Board initially issued ADAAG on July 26, 1991; and recently issued a revised ADAGG ( on July 23, 2004.  The revised ADAAG is based on a report submitted by another advisory committee in 1996 titled “Recommendations for a New ADAAG.”  When it was originally convened, the PVAAC used the “Recommendations for a New ADAAG” as the starting point for its report, and then modified the provisions as appropriate for passenger vessels.  On November 16, 1999, the Board issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise ADAAG and the PVAAC also considered that document prior to issuing its final report in December 2000.  Due to time constraints, not every provision in the “Recommendations for a New ADAAG” or the NPRM to revise ADAAG was considered by the PVAAC.  The Board’s draft guidelines for passenger vessels are based on the PVAAC’s final report as well as the revised ADAAG which was issued as a final rule on July 23, 2004 (Revised ADAAG).

Provisions in Revised ADAAG Not Included in Board’s Draft Passenger Vessel Guidelines

Although the revised ADAAG served as the basis for the Board’s draft guidelines, provisions in the revised ADAAG that address features not currently provided on passenger vessels are not included in the Board’s draft guidelines.  Provisions in the revised ADAAG that are not included in the Board’s draft guidelines include:

  • Press Boxes
  • Tiered Dining Areas in Sports Facilities
  • Parking Spaces
  • Passenger Loading Zones and Bus Stops
  • Transportation Facilities
  • Assembly Area Box, Team, and Player Seating
  • Rehabilitation, Psychiatric, Detoxification, and Long Term Care Facilities
  • Self-Service Storage Facilities
  • Judicial and Correctional Facilities
  • Residential Facilities
  • Animal Containment Areas
  • Amusement Rides
  • Recreational Boating Facilities, and
  • Golf Facilities