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Carnival settles US claims of disability discrimination

NEW YORK (AP) — The world’s largest cruise provider and the Justice Department announced a settlement Thursday regarding access for people with disabilities on 62 ships in the Carnival, Holland America and Princess Cruises brands.

Miami-based Carnival Corp. will pay a civil penalty of $55,000 to the government and $350,000 in damages to individuals harmed by past discrimination, the government announced.

The settlement is the result of an investigation of complaints by the Justice Department. Among the complaints were allegations that the company failed to properly provide and reserve accessible cabins for individuals with mobility disabilities; afford individuals with disabilities the same opportunities to participate in programs and services, including leaving the ship and returning; and provide effective communication during emergency drills.

Under the settlement, the government will for the first time require a cruise company to provide a minimum number of accessible cabins and to develop a remediation plan to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the Justice Department.

“People with disabilities who travel must be able to count on getting the accessible cabin they reserve and the cruise lines must provide equal access to the choice of amenities and attractions that passengers expect from a major cruise company like Carnival Corporation,” Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

The government said Carnival cooperated with the investigation.

Roger Frizzell, a spokesman for the cruise company, said in an email that Carnival has historically met the needs of all its guests and “will continue to do so with even more enhancements in staff training, accessibility policies and communications, as well as additional shipboard accessibility features.”

Under the agreement:

— Forty two existing ships, and seven ships in various stages of design and construction, will be surveyed and retrofitted to comply with ADA regulations. Accessible cabins will provide a range of features, including features for guests with hearing impairments.

— Three percent of the cabins on 49 ships will be accessible according to three levels of accessibility: fully accessible cabins, fully accessible cabins with a single side approach to the bed and ambulatory accessible cabins. The remaining 13 ships will be subject to possible remodeling if they continue to be in service in U.S. ports four years after the agreement is entered.

— Carnival will provide specific ADA training to employees and managers.

— Reservations systems will allow individuals with disabilities to reserve accessible cabins and suites.

— Carnival will appoint an ADA compliance officer at the executive level.

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Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.

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