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Supreme Court To Review Cruise Line Accessibility Case
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 30, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a case that could determine whether cruise ships from other countries must comply with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act when they are in U.S. waters.

The case, Douglas Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Lines, involves a group of passengers with disabilities and their companions who traveled on the Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sea cruise ships in 1998 and 1999. The ships originated in the Port of Houston, Texas and sailed under the Bahamian flag.

The passengers filed a discrimination suit under Title III of the ADA, which covers accessibility in public accommodations. According to court documents, they claimed that physical barriers on the ships denied them access to emergency evacuation equipment and emergency evacuation-related programs; facilities such as public restrooms, restaurants, swimming pools, and elevators; and cabins with a balcony or a window. They also alleged that the cruise line charged them extra for using accessible cabins and for the assistance of crew members.

Norwegian Cruise Lines has argued that Congress said nothing about the ADA covering foreign cruise lines.

In January of this year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled in part for the cruise line. Both sides then asked for the Supreme Court to hear the case.

If the court rules that the ADA applies to foreign cruse lines, the travel industry could be forced to spend millions of dollars to make cruise ships accessible.

Advocacy groups have filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief supporting Douglas Spector and the other plaintiffs in the case.

"Making cruise ships fully accessible to people with disabilities makes good business sense," the brief stated.

Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit)
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