According to a news brief I received yesterday,
The Supreme Court has ruled that foreign-flagged cruise ships that dock in U.S. ports must comply with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court decision was split 5-4, but this overturns a ruling by a U.S. appeals court that held that foreign-flagged ships were not covered by the ADA.
The Court stressed that ships must still comply with international safety regulations, and that the ADA should not be construed to conflict with those standards (physical changes, such as widening doors or installing elevators, can threaten a ship's seaworthiness). The justices deferred to lower courts to decide the extent of changes required to prevent international discord and conflict with safety laws.
This long awaited ruling was the result of a suit (Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd.) filed by three disabled passengers who sailed on NCL ships in the late 90's; the passengers maintain that they paid extra for handicapped-accessible cabins, but were not properly accommodated. Thomas C. Goldstein, who argued the passengers' case before the Supreme Court, told the New York Times that the decision would require changes such as grab bars, lower water fountains and the elimination of surcharges on accessible cabins.