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The Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG) rulemaking has concluded. The PROWAG final rule has been published in the Federal Register. Please visit the Access Board’s PROWAG page for the guidelines.

ADA Access to Passenger Vessels: Finding Safety Equivalence Solutions for Weathertight Doors with Coamings

Phase 1: Background and History

October 2004vessel sailing in harbor

Prepared for: The U.S. Access Board

Prepared by:
U.S. Department of Transportation
Research and Innovative Technologies Administration
John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Michael G. Dyer
NOTICE : Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or use of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United State Government or any agency thereof.


This report examines possible approaches to provide for both marine safety and disability access at doors into passenger accommodation spaces on U.S. passenger vessels. The Architecture and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board’s ultimate objective is to assist designers and operators in improving wheelchair access without compromising the vessel safety provisions of the sills at these doorways. This report contains the results of “Phase 1” of the project, which are 1) to examine the application of the current governing safety regulations; and 2) to present several brief technical case studies examining the design and regulatory review of weathertight doors on K and T boats.


The authors wish to thank the numerous organizations and individuals who graciously provided their time, knowledge and guidance in the development of this report. Our sponsors at the Architecture and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board have been supportive. We owe thanks to many in the Coast Guard who responded to our inquiries and contributed their time, their knowledge, and their experience. They include Mr. Tom Jordan and Mr. Al Penn (Coast Guard Headquarters), LT Jason Hall and CWO4 Jim Hinde (Marine Safety Office, Boston), CWO Ray Rock (Marine Safety Office, Providence), and LCDR Tony Wiest (Marine Safety Center).


ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990
ADAAG - ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (2003)
ATBCB - Architecture and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
CFR - Code of Federal Regulations
COI - Certificate of Inspection
COTP - Captain of the Port
ILLC - International Load Line Convention
IMO - International Maritime Organization
MBTA - Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority
OCMI - Officer in Charge of Marine Inspection
PVA - Passengers Vessels Association
PVAAC - Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee