New ADA vessel guidelines draft released

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Policymakers have opted to exclude recreational boats and small passenger vessels from new passenger vessels guidelines in the Americans with Disabilities Act, the National Marine Manufacturers Association said in a press release yesterday. The new guidelines will instead apply to larger passenger vessels, certain tenders and ferries. In earlier policy drafts, the Access Board had intended to prepare ADA guidelines for passenger vessels of all sizes.

“NMMA provided guidance to the Access Board on the many differences among inspected passenger vessels, uninspected small six-pack boats and recreational boats,” said Monita Fontaine, NMMA vice president of government relations. “Since recreational boats are subject to stringent, but different standards and regulations from commercial passenger vessels, recreational boats should be excluded from these ADA vessel guidelines. Our manufacturers build high quality boats for private owners’ use, not commercial duty. It is important to distinguish between the two in order to help the board focus its efforts on achieving accessibility for the disabled on vessels that serve as a public accommodation, such as large cruise ships and dinner cruise boats.”

In 2004, the Access Board, the federal advisory board that establishes the ADA “building code,” published draft building guidelines that would have applied to large cruise ships and the full range of smaller passenger vessels. NMMA and member companies reached out to the board to educate members on the differences between commercial and recreational vessels, and the negative economic impact blanket regulations written for large commercial vessels would have on the recreational boating industry.

“Recreational boats are built from a number of materials developed with a significant amount of research and development cost,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “Any design change requires the development of a new design at a significant cost. To the casual observer, today’s announcement excluding recreational boats from the same guidelines imposed on larger commercial passenger vessels may seem trivial, but it is another example of the proactive work NMMA undertakes to help protect our members from un-informed government regulation.”

The board recently released a revised draft, published on July 7, with ADA guidelines that will now only apply to passenger vessels that carry 150 or more passengers, certain tenders (more than 60 or more passengers) and all sizes of ferries. The board plans to prepare guidelines for water taxis and other small passenger vessels only after it has completed the current rulemaking.

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