NMCA issues Regulatory Alert on ADA standards

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The U.S. Department of Transportation plans to propose new Americans with Disabilities Act regulations for passenger vessels, the National Marine Charter Association said in a “Regulatory Alert” it issued yesterday to its members.

NMCA said the government is looking for industry comments as it determines what vessels will be required to be compliant with the ADA, and what those requirements will be. The association asked its membership to submit comments by March 28, 2005.

“NMCA will be filing comments on behalf of the marine charter industry, but also encourages individuals to file comments,” NMCA wrote in its alert.

The association said the government is looking for industry comments on the following issues:

  • 1. Vessel Sizes – The DOT is seeking input on how vessels should be distinguished. Should it be by passenger capacity? Should it mirror U.S. Coast Guard regulations (such as 49 CFR Subchapter T)? What other methods could be used to distinguish vessels for ADA requirements?
  • 2. Access Board Draft Guidelines – The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) submitted “Recommendations for Accessibility Guidelines for Passenger Vessels” in 2000. DOT asks questions of the Access Board’s general guidelines such as, “What should be considered a new vessel?” DOT seeks comment from the industry on how the draft Access Board provisions interact with current Coast Guard regulations. DOT is also seeking any available information on compliance costs to the industry.
  • 3. Barrier Removal and Program Accessibility – In ADA standards for other modes of transportation, physical accessibility standards only apply to new facilities or vehicles (or alterations to facilities or vehicles). DOT asks whether these same concepts should apply in the marine industry, and if the fact that vessels generally stay in service longer than other types of vehicles means that retrofitting is an appropriate solution.
  • 4. Shore to Vessel Transition – DOT asks how responsibility for compliance should be allocated between vessel operators and facility operators.
  • 5. Access to On-Board Facilities – DOT requests comments on general issues related to securing wheelchairs in the marine environment. In terms of passengers with vision and hearing impairments, what accommodations should be made for these passengers to ensure that they are alerted to emergencies, etc.?
  • 6. Economic Considerations – DOT seeks information and comment on the potential costs of vessel accessibility requirements, including the costs on smaller vessels.
  • NMCA said comments can be filed online at http://dms.dot.gov. (The docket number for this ANPRM is OST-2004-19700.) The Access Board's guidelines and the economic impact study can also be found there. To file comments by mail, be sure to include the docket number on all correspondence, and send to: U.S. Department of Transportation, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Washington, DC 20590.

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