As you know, the US Access Board just released their second draft of proposed guidelines for passenger vessel access. The board is now accepting public comments on these proposed guidelines, and I highly encourage everybody to submit theirs.
Ever been unable to secure an accessible cabin on your preferred sailing date? Then write the Access Board and tell them because the cruise lines want to decrease the required number of accessible cabins on their ships.
Of course I can?t ask folks to do anything that I?m not willing to do myself, so here?s my letter to the Access Board:
Office of Technical and Information Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street NW., Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
As the editor of a magazine about accessible travel, I get a lot of feedback from my readers. Many of those comments are about cruises. Unfortunately many comments are also about cruises that never happened? Why? Simply because of the lack of accessible cabins. If you can?t get your wheelchair or scooter in the cabin door, you just can?t cruise.
That?s why I submitted my comments after the first draft of guidelines for passenger vessels was released. In those comments I emphasized that 32-inch doorway clearances on all cabins were essential. After reviewing the second draft of the proposed guidelines I see that my suggestion was not incorporated, even on newly built vessels. To be honest, I think that?s a disservice to the cruising public, as we have an aging population and more and more folks are acquiring age-related disabilities that require the use of a wheelchair or a scooter. These people want to be able to cruise too.
That?s why I feel compelled to comment on the second draft of the proposed guidelines.
As I read the comments on the first draft of the proposed guidelines I see that the Access Board is under pressure from the cruise industry to actually decrease the number of accessible cabins required. I think this would be a mistake, and in fact I encourage you to increase the number of accessible cabins required on each ship. More and more people want to cruise. Let?s face it, the disabled population is not decreasing, so I think we have to look to the future when crafting these guidelines. People are being turned away now. It?s not going to get any better if we don?t open up more cabins for people who use wheelchairs or scooters.
To that end I urge the Access Board to increase the number of accessible cabins required on each ship, in the final regulations for passenger vessels. It will make cruising accessible to more people and in the end, it?s really the right thing to do.
Editor, Emerging Horizons
Let your voice be heard. The deadline for public comments is September 5, 2006. The future of accessible cruising may depend on these final regulations. Don?t let them be crafted without traveler input.
Comments can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed to (202) 272-0081 or mailed to Office of Technical and Information Services, Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, 1331 F Street NW, suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004-1111. Be sure and include Docket No. 2004-1 in all of your correspondence on this subject. Comments sent by e-mail will be considered only if they contain the full name and address of the sender in the text.
So start writing!