June 18, 2013 

cruise shipThe Board has released for public comment proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. Developed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the guidelines provide design criteria for large vessels when newly constructed or altered to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities.  The guidelines address various features of vessel accessibility and include provisions for onboard routes, vertical access between decks, doorways and coamings, toilet rooms, guest rooms, alarm systems, and other spaces and elements used by passengers.

The Board is pleased to unveil proposed guidelines that will ensure access to vessels for passengers with disabilities,” states Access Board Chair Karen L. Braitmayer, FAIA.  “We know from experience that barriers to accessibility are often due to a lack of clear and detailed design guidance, and this rule will fill a long-standing gap in making passenger vessels accessible to all.”

As proposed, the guidelines would apply to cruise ships and other vessels that carry over 150 passengers or at least 50 overnight passengers.  They also cover ferries designed to carry 100 or more passengers and tenders allowed to carry 60 or more passengers.  The Board is not proposing requirements for smaller vessels due to assessed design challenges, space constraints, and other factors.  The guidelines would apply to newly built or altered vessels.

In laying the groundwork for this effort, the Board conducted research on the feasibility and impacts of integrating accessibility into the design of vessels.  This information includes case studies on vessels of various types and sizes, examination of design solutions to identified design and engineering constraints, and cost and impact analyses.  The Board previously released advance drafts of the guidelines for comment which were based on recommendations from an advisory panel organized by the Board, the Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee.

The Board is developing these guidelines under the ADA, which requires access to transportation and other services and to places of public accommodation.  Under the law, the Board is responsible for developing minimum guidelines covering access to transportation systems and to the built environment.  The vessel guidelines, once finalized, will join the Board's ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Vehicles, which are currently being updated, and its ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities.  The new guidelines will be used by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice in setting mandatory standards.

The rule, which will be published in the Federal Register next week, can be accessed now on the Board's website or through the Federal government's rulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov. Instructions for submitting comments, which are due within 90 days from publication in the Federal Register, are included in the proposal. The Board will hold a public hearing on the guidelines in Washington, D.C. on July 10.

Visit the passenger vessels homepage on the Board's website for more information or contact Paul Beatty at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (202) 272-0012 (v), or (202) 272-0072 (TTY).