With respect to this case, CHIRP highlights that the first important point to note is that the range of disabilities a ship manager may encounter is wide ranging from blindness to mental difficulties and wheelchair use.
In general terms with reference to passengers with disabilities, the Maritime Advisory Board highlighted that everyone is different, and the range of disabilities varies from being wheelchair bound to those who may be:
- visually impaired, with sight difficulties up to total blindness;
- aurally impaired, with hearing difficulties up to total deafness;
- frail, with difficulties in movement;
- mute and unable to vocally respond; and
- afflicted with any number of mental disabilities.
US and European law require that any disabled person has the same rights as other passengers. CHIRP believes that this would be better achieved with a discussion between a ship representative and the passenger concerned, to cover all possible emergency issues, including medication, needs and specific disabilities,
...says Dr. Jonathan Earthy from the Maritime Advisory Board.
As such, CHIRP understands that the procedures that most companies have in place assure that in the event of an emergency, a disabled passenger has a trained crew member or crew members assigned to assist.
With respect to the lifejackets being situated in cabins as opposed to being at the muster station, this point was queried with several cruise companies. Some have made a conscious decision to relocate all lifejackets close to the lifeboats. Others have not. It was mentioned that relocation of the lifejackets would be problematic on older vessels where there may not be sufficient space to allow for lifejackets to be situated in this position.
Similarly, CHIRP understands that many new build cruise vessels have disabled cabins located close to the muster stations. This however, is not universal and there are no regulatory requirements from IMO to ensure that the vessel design takes this into account.