Here are my comments on the proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. You can submit your own comments here after reading the proposed regulations. You have until September 23, 2013, so let your voice be heard on this matter.
To Whom it May Concern:
After reading the proposed guidelines for passenger vessels, I feel they incorporate the needed access features for a wide variety of travelers, while at the same time are extremely fair to industry. That said I would like to address the issue of providing two types of accessible staterooms (accessible and modified).
Over my 17-year career in covering accessible travel, I’ve heard from thousands of disabled cruise ship passengers. Some of their stories were good, and some of them were not-so-good. In the end, miscommunication was generally at the root of the not-so-good stories.
Some cruise lines already have partially-accessible or modified staterooms, and they invariably end up being sold to individuals who need fully accessible staterooms (at least according to my readers). Again, this happens because of miscommunication, which in my humble opinion will always exist.
No matter how good the training, we will always have some reservation agents, tour operators or travel agents who don’t understand the difference between a partially accessible stateroom and a fully accessible stateroom. And for that reason, I strongly believe that only one category of accessible staterooms (fully accessible) should be required.
That said, I will stick to what I have said in the past, and say that all staterooms should have 32-inch wide doorways. That way, even “last minute” wheelchair-users (broken ankle or such) can at least get into the stateroom they reserved. Plus, by making all of the staterooms “visitable”, wheelchair-users will be able to enter the staterooms of others traveling in their party. It seems only equitable, as that is what we have done with land-based accommodations. I understand the cruise ship industry’s reluctance to embrace this idea, as it would mean change; however since these regulations will be for newly built ships, change is a realistic possibility.