Published: June 2009
The open sea
In June, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-to-3 decision that foreign-flagged ships in United States territory must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), but that they need not make major structural changes. Renovations such as modifying elevators to fit scooters could interfere with safety guidelines mandated by the1974 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty, which upholds international standards for seagoing vessels.
The legal battle is far from over: with the larger issue now settled, the case returns to district court, where the merits of plaintiff Douglas Spector's case against Norwegian Cruise Line will be decided. Meanwhile, the U.S. Access Board, a federal agency that works on disability issues, is drafting new ADA rules for large passenger vessels in an attempt to give disabled travelers more mobility on cruise ships. —Melinda Mahaffey