As the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act approaches — July 26 — the Department of Transportation announced the first federal rule to specifically provide ADA protections to people with disabilities who travel on boats and ships. The rule covers vessels, like public ferry systems, operated by public entities. It also covers vessels, like cruise ships, operated by private entities primarily for transporting people.First and foremost, its purpose is to make sure that boat and ship operators don’t deny access to passengers based on their disability and that those passengers, once aboard, are treated fairly.According to the new rule, passengers with disabilities cannot be charged extra for accessibility-related services and are not required to furnish their own attendants. It requires boat and ship operators to inform passengers of vessel accessibility and services, and it requires operators to have a knowledgeable person available to help passengers with disabilities resolve their concerns.The new rule will become effective 120 days after it is published. There will be a 90-day comment period concerning three issues: whether vessel operators should be required to allow passengers with disabilities to bring emotional support animals on board, requirements operators must follow concerning the use of mobility aids, and the relationship of DOT and DOJ disability rules. The rule is available at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2007-26829.Source: DOT announcement of June 17, 2010. Full text available here>>.