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Do Cruise Ships Have to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

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The Americans with Disabilities Act is a wide-ranging set of legislation that aims to protect people who have disabilities from unfair treatment or discrimination. The legislation applies to employers, federal programs, and privately owned businesses, amongst others.

The legislation even applies to the construction and operation of cruise ships. Cruise lines must ensure that their ships provide standardized levels of access on board the ship and make reasonable modifications to facilities and services provided.

If you were injured on board a cruise ship and suspect that the cruise ship could have been doing more to help you with your disability, we urge you to reach out to Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. Our dedicated cruise ship attorneys can provide you with a free initial case evaluation when you call today at (305) 204-5369.

What Is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

In 1990, the U.S. government passed the ADA, a set of civil rights laws that attempt to protect individuals from discrimination in public life. The specific goal of the ADA is to provide legal protection for people with disabilities that is similar to the protection provided to others on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and age.

There are five titles under the ADA that categorize the protections provided by area. The title that applies to cruise ships and other common carriers is Title III, Public Accommodations. Other privately-owned entities that must comply with Title III of the ADA include hotels, retail stores, restaurants, private schools, movie theaters, and sports arenas, among others.

Title III not only sets minimum standards for accessibility in these facilities, but it also requires the operators of these facilities to make “reasonable modifications” to account for people with disabilities. This includes structural modifications as well as service modifications.

Standard for ADA Compliance on Cruise Ships

While the ADA was passed in 1990, the rules for how it would apply to cruise lines were not really set out until 2015, when the Justice Department reached a settlement with Carnival Cruises. The settlement provided the standards for how cruise ships should operate in order to comply with the ADA. This included having accessible cabins and providing equal access to amenities and attractions on board.

Cabin Accessibility on Cruise Ships

One of the most critical aspects of ADA compliance for cruise ships is the accessibility of their cabins, or staterooms. Each ship should have at least a few fully accessible staterooms that stay reserved for guests with disabilities to book. A fully accessible stateroom will have doors that are at least 32 inches wide to account for full-sized wheelchairs. They should also have some system for allowing ease in communication for those with hearing and sight disabilities, particularly in regard to the safety features and evacuation plans.

Service Animals on Cruise Ships

Service dogs are permitted on board almost all of the major cruise lines. However, the policies for permitting service dogs on board differ amongst the cruise lines, so it is important to look closely at the policies before making any assumptions. Many off-ship excursions and tours do not allow service dogs. These excursions, which are often run by third party companies, are not necessarily beholden to ADA requirements, especially if the cruise ventures to foreign countries.

It is also important to note the difference between service animals and other designations. There are much more stringent rules against emotional support and therapy animals among most of the major cruise lines.

What if the Cruise Ship is from a Foreign Port?

Just because a cruise ship originated in a different country does not mean that it is immune from ADA restrictions. If a cruise ship is operating in U.S. waters, it must comply with the ADA or else risk a civil suit and monetary penalties for each violation. “U.S. waters” technically applies to any area within 12 nautical miles of the coast of any United States land or territory.

Foreign ships must also follow international maritime laws and guidelines. If a foreign ship’s obedience to the ADA would violate some other obligation or threaten ship safety, it is permitted to violate ADA requirements. These situations are rare, but they provide a defense that might be raised against you if you were to file a lawsuit, so it can be helpful to have your cruise ship lawyer familiarize you with these nuances.

What Happens if a Cruise Ship Doesn’t Comply with the ADA?

If you find that your cruise ship does not meet the regulations set forth by the ADA, you can report their suspected violations to the federal government. Cruise ships that violate the ADA face substantial fines for their transgressions. However, none of the money from those fines will go to the actual passengers affected. If you were injured due to ADA violations on a cruise ship, your best option for recovery is to file a lawsuit against the entity responsible for the violation.

How Can ADA Guidelines Help You with Your Personal Injury Lawsuit Against a Cruise Ship?

In any personal injury case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed to meet the duties that they owed to the plaintiff. Duties may be based on common sense practices that are standard in the defendant’s industry, or they may be inferred from federal regulations that the defendant was obligated to follow.

ADA guidelines are a perfect example of the latter. If you were injured on a cruise line because the cruise operator failed to account for your disability as they should have under the ADA, you can use that to show that the cruise line breached their duty to you as a patron. The cruise ship attorneys at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. are well-versed in the requirements of the ADA and can help you pinpoint exactly where your cruise line fell short in providing you with the care that you deserve.

Get Answers About ADA Requirements on Cruise Ships from Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A.

Americans with disabilities who suffer injuries due to ADA violations on cruise ships deserve the diligent, earnest care of the Maritime accident lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. Call us today at (305) 204-5369 to get started.

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