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Feds May Require Cruise Liners to Offer ‘Relief Areas’ for Service Animals

New ADA rules expected to cost industry between $66 and $74M

• October 18, 2013 11:00 am

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New federal disability regulations being crafted for cruise ships may include a provision to mandate liners have "relief areas" for service animals.

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) is currently receiving comments for accessibility guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The guidelines, which would apply to ferries, cruise ships, excursion boats, and other passenger vessels, include numerous regulations, ranging from drinking fountains to saunas.

Complying with the rules are expected to cost the industry between $66 and $74 million over a 20 year period.

Among other changes, the board is requesting comments on how best to go about requiring cruise ships to offer bathrooms for guide animals.

"Individuals with disabilities who use service animals have reported traveling difficulties due to the absence of service animal relief areas on passenger vessels," the proposed rule states. "We are considering requiring service animal relief areas on passenger vessels in the final guidelines."

The board is asking commenters if the need for service animal relief areas should be based on the length of trip, "how many service animal relief areas should be provided on passenger vessels," and where they should be located.

The rule has been open for public comment since June 25, 2013, and the period was recently extended until Jan. 24, 2014. To date, only 10 comments have been received, none dealing with the questions about service animal bathrooms.

Disability regulations have in the past resulted in restaurants being forced to allow miniature horses on their premises as guide animals for the disabled and airlines allowing pot-bellied pigs on flights for the "emotional support" of passengers.

For ships, other proposed rules would apply to showers, coat hooks and shelves in bathrooms, vending machines, miniature golf facilities, play areas, steam rooms, and "post-mounted binoculars."

A "lines of sight" rule mandates specific dimensions for seating in auditoriums, and even fonts on signs will be regulated. For instance, on a sign for a library, the "Stroke thickness of the uppercase letter ‘I’ shall be 15 percent maximum of the height of the character."

Another rule requires each ship to have an elevator, with an estimated cost of up to $371,000 per boat. At least one pool lift would also be required for each swimming pool.

The guidelines would apply to cruises that carry more than 150 people or more than 49 overnight guests; ferries that carry more than 99 passengers; and tenders that carry more than 59.

A spokesperson for the United States Access Board told the Washington Free Beacon that the guidelines would be the basis for government agencies to draft final regulations.

"As the Board works to complete its guidelines, at some point, the Departments of Justice and Transportation will develop enforceable standards based on the Board's guidelines," said Paul Beatty. "At the same time, they may also modify their ADA regulations to address operational and management issues that do not fall under the design, new construction, and alteration requirements of the guidelines."

As for the service animal relief areas, Beatty said he could not comment since the comment period is still open.

Published under: Lawsuit