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Supreme Court Rules in Cruise Ship, ADA Case

June 7, 2005

Supreme Court Rules in Cruise Ship, ADA Case
June 7, 2005 – The United States Supreme Court has ruled that foreign-flag cruise ships must abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act when in U.S. waters. The court heard the Spector vs. Norwegian Cruise Line class action case earlier this year when Douglas Spector and two other travelers who used wheelchairs or electric scooters brought the case against the Norwegian Sea and Norwegian Star. They filed suit after being charged extra for cabins accessible to the disabled and finding that some services in public areas, including bathrooms, were not accessible.

Disability rights advocates argued that the ADA was intended to help people pursue full lives, while the cruise industry says it would be too complicated and costly to abide by the laws of individual port countries.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said that modifications for disabled passengers can be made where barrier removal is "readily achievable" and that Congress could not have intended for barrier removal to conflict with international rules such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.

According to Travel Weekly, the International Council of Cruise Lines, a trade group representing the major cruise lines, said it "welcomes the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision" which "recognized the complexity of the application of domestic U.S. laws to ships at sea."

ICCL said that it would "continue to work with the U.S. Access Board to ensure that regulations under development will properly reflect this opinion of the Supreme Court. We will also work hard to ensure that cruise ships remain one of the most accessible vacations available to all travelers."

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