UNOLS Project: American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines for UNOLS Vessels

Media file: Ferry_Vessel_Disabled_Access_Chapman_TRB_Jan04653X217.jpg
Photo by David Chapman

Table of Contents

Project Background and Task Statement

NSF has indicated the need for new ship construction and ship conversion efforts to address ADA requirements. Although UNOLS vessels are not passenger vessels and fall under USCG Subchapter U Classification, vessels that support Federally funded academic research should be equipped and arranged as feasible to accommodate persons with disabilities. In turn, procedural guidelines to carry out shipboard operations by persons with disabilities are needed.

 Task Statement
  • Draft Premilinary ADA Guidelines for the Reginal Class Acquisition effort. The following documents and activities should be evaulated in this effort
    • The ADA paper drafted by Terry Whitledge.
    •  Guidelines on how to implement ADA requirements for passenger vessels
    • Modifications implemented or included in the designs for the Alaska Region Research Vessel, Marcus Langseth, and Hugh R. Sharp
  • Convene a 2-day Community Workshop to define shipboard and procedural guidelines required to accommodate sea-going scientists with disabilities.
    •  Submit a proposal to NSF for support of the workshop
    • Convene speakers or a panel with expertise in the area (suggestions):
      • U.S. Coast Guard representative
      • US Access Board representative
      • Sea-going Scientist with disability
      • Naval Architec
    • Broadly announce the workshop and ensure that participation will include the science community, sea-going scientists with disabilities, Naval architects, ship master, marine superintendents, agency representation, and a risk manager.
    • Consider the usefulness of a pre (or post) meeting survey.
  • Establish General ADA Guidelines for new ship construction/conversion.
    • Define the UNOLS philosophy for accommodating persons with disabilities at sea.
    • Evaluate the ADA paper drafted by Terry Whitledge.
    • Evaluate guidelines on how to implement ADA requirements for passenger vessels
    • Evaluate findings from David Chapman's research project.
    • ADA guidelines for UNOLS Vessels should take into consideration the various vessel sizes, as well as the nature of the disability (hearing, vision, and mobility). Levels of compliance should be recommended.
    • Estimated costs associated with the various design modifications necessary to accommodate ADA requirements should be evaluated and defined.
  • Draft procedural guidelines for at-sea research operations by seagoing scientists with disabilities. The guidelines should consider:
    • Shipboard mobility and access areas
    • Research operations
    • Evacuation / safety procedures

Committee Membership

  • FIC Member - Terry Whitledge (UAF) - Chair
  • Risk Manager - Dennis Nixon (URI)
  • Safety Committee Representative - Matt Hawkins (UDel)
  • Seagoing Scientist with Disability - Amy Bower (WHOI)
  • Ship Master - Eric Buck (SIO)
  • Marine Superintendent - Al Suchy (WHOI)
  • Langseth Conversion Rep. - Jim Cochran (LDEO)
  • RVTEC Rep - Joe Ustach (Duke)
  • David Chapman (UDel)
  • Corresponding Member - David Glover (WHOI)


  • Dolly Dieter (NSF)
  • RADM Richard Behn (NOAA)
  • Stephan Manzo (NOAA)
  • Holly Smith (NSF)

Reference Material

  1. DRAFT - Recommendations for Implementation of Americans with Disabilties Act Guidelines to UNOLS Vessels (2005)
  2. Case Study: Disabled Access on New York - New Jersey Passenger Ferry

Project Updates, Meetings, and Documents

Date Item Link
February 2006 Meeting ADA Guidelines Committee Meeting
June 2006 Meeting ADA Guidelines Committee Meeting
July 2006 Document Preliminary ADA Guidelines for Regional Class Vessels
(submitted to NSF for distribution to ship design teams)
September 2006 Meeting ADA Guidelines Committee Meeting
February 2008 Document Final Report - Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines for UNOLS Vessels