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Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. - Background, Legal Issues, and Implications for Persons with Disabilities

Tuesday, February 8, 2005
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February 8, 2005


This paper examines the Spector case in detail. It begins by looking at the cruise line industry, the ways in which the industry is a quintessentially American one, and the appeal that a cruise vacation has for persons with disabilities. Next, it explains the practice of flying a flag of convenience and why the cruise ship industry has opted to follow that practice. The paper then turns to a discussion of the public accommodations provisions of the ADA and how the federal government has drafted guidelines detailing how cruise ships must be made accessible to persons with disabilities. Next, it addresses the cruise industry’s argument that requiring foreign-flagged cruise ships to comply with the ADA would be an impermissible extraterritorial application of U.S. law. The paper then explains how requiring compliance with the ADA would not, in fact, be an extraterritorial application of U.S. law, and how it would not conflict with U.S. treaty obligations. The paper describes how several major cruise lines have already made their ships fully accessible, thereby undermining the cruise line’s argument that compliance with the ADA is somehow not technologically or economically feasible in the cruise ship context. Finally, the paper concludes that requiring cruise ships’ compliance with the ADA is the only way to achieve Congress’ goal of “full participation” in society by persons with disabilities. To deny persons with disabilities the ability to enjoy a sea cruise would seriously undermine Congress’ primary goal in enacting the ADA: the full participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of American life.

An official website of the National Council on Disability