Just when I though we might finally be nearing the release of the final guidelines on cruise ship accessibility, my hopes have been once again dashed. Dashed, by an advisory committee; more specifically an advisory committee to examine issues concerning emergency alarm systems for deaf and hard of hearing cruise ship passengers.
Not that I don?t think this is a valid concern — if you can?t hear how do you respond to emergency instructions — but couldn?t the Access Board have addressed it a little sooner?
At issue is whether cruise ships should be required to provide more “advanced” technology than the standard emergency strobe or flashing red light in cabins of passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing. The argument in favor claims that many passengers miss important announcements over the PA, so some type of visual text messages should be available for all announcements. After all, some of those announcements may be emergency announcements. Also at issue are phones that are not T-coil compatible and not usable by folks with certain types of hearing aids; because access to telephones may be necessary in emergency situations.
The cruise industry of course disagrees. Or at least it disagrees with what kind of technology it should use.
This committee was created because of the large response from the deaf community to the proposed guidelines, which some people felt did not include “best practices” technology. Many people also complained about the lack of captions on movies, but since that isn?t an emergency issue, it?s not something that this committee is addressing.
So I?ve learned two things form this whole process.
- The Access Board does listen to feedback
- Rulemaking is a painfully slow process
So, it?s back to the drawing board, or should I say the waiting room, as far as access guidelines for cruise ships are concerned.