Reposted from a story by Gene Sloan, USA TODAY 7:46 p.m. EDT July 23, 2015
Cruise giant Carnival Corp. will pay more than $400,000 in penalties and damages as part of a settlement over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday.
The parent company of Carnival, Princess and Holland America also has agreed to survey and, if necessary, make changes to 42 existing vessels at the three brands to comply with ADA regulations. Seven vessels in various stages of design and construction also will be surveyed and, if necessary, updated to comply with the regulations.
Another 13 ships operated by the brands will be subject to possible changes if they continue to be in service in U.S. ports in four years.
The settlement calls for 3% of cabins on the ships to be accessible to passengers with disabilities, with the cabins falling into one of three categories: fully accessible cabins, fully accessible cabins with a single side approach to the bed and ambulatory accessible cabins.
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Carnival Corp. also agreed to create brand standards that address an array of accessibility issues, provide ADA training to employees and ensure reservation systems allow for people with disabilities to book accessible cabins. The company also will appoint an ADA compliance officer at the executive level as well as ADA responsibility officers at its Carnival brand and at the Holland America Group, which includes Holland America and Princess. An officer on each ship also will be appointed to resolve ADA-related issues.
The settlement follows a Justice Department investigation of complaints that Carnival Corp. failed to properly provide and reserve accessible cabins for individuals with mobility disabilities as is required under the ADA. The company also was accused of failing to reasonably modify policies to accommodate individuals with disabilities; afford individuals with disabilities the same opportunities to participate in programs and services, including embarkation and disembarkation; and provide effective communication during muster and emergency drills.
Carnival Corp. will pay a civil penalty of $55,000 to the United States and $350,000 in damages to individuals harmed by past discrimination, according to the Justice Department. The agency says Carnival Corp. officials cooperated during the investigation.
In a statement sent to USA TODAY, Carnival Corp. says it is pleased with the settlement.
“We have historically maintained a strong focus on accessibility and have a longstanding track record of meeting the needs of all our guests,” the Carnival Corp. statement says. “We will continue to do so with even more enhancements in staff training, accessibility policies and communications, as well as additional shipboard accessibility features.”
Carnival ships on order that would fall under the settlement terms include the 4,000-passenger Carnival Vista – the Carnival brands’ biggest vessel ever. For a sneak peek at what the line plans for the ship, click through the carousel below