Cruise Ship Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

CLIA member lines have no higher priority than the safety of all guests and crew. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) provides requirements for passenger ships engaged on international voyages, including provisions for design, construction and operation of cruise ships. Given the international nature of the industry, cruise ships are required to comply with applicable international requirements in SOLAS and other treaties. In this context, certain national guidelines on accessibility could create conflicts with international requirements in SOLAS.

The cruise industry has long been proactive in accommodating passengers with disabilities. Since 1975, CLIA has worked closely with the International Maritime Organization—a specialized agency of the United Nations and global standard-setting authority for the safety, security, and environmental performance of international shipping—to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective. This includes work in 1996 on developing international standards for the design and operation of passenger ships with respect to accommodation of persons with disabilities.

In 2010, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) published regulations that provide for practices and procedures for transportation of individuals with disabilities on passenger vessels in the United States, including non-U.S. flagged cruise ships that embark or disembark passengers in a U.S. port. The U.S. Architectural and Compliance Access Board (Access Board) is currently developing guidelines on construction and equipment standards for passenger vessels in the United Sates. CLIA and its member lines have been involved in this regulatory process since 1998.