January 25, 2001
Norwegian Cruise Lines is being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The DOJ says that twice Norwegian discriminated against blind travelers. The first time, according to DOJ, the line actually denied passage to a blind man, who’d booked a 7-day Caribbean trip, because he was traveling alone. What makes this worse is that the passenger, Steven Gomes of Denver, was actually turned away at the gangplank by the ship¹s doctor who said that because he lacked a companion, he was at risk of injuring himself. In the second instance, a blind couple, Robert Stigile and Joy Cardinet, booked a honeymoon cruise. After they paid the deposit, they were asked to sign a form waiving the cruise line of any potential damages due to injury. Among other things, says the DOJ, the “forms suggested that they consult with their doctor to determine if they are competent to travel.” The couple opted not to sign the forms and lost their deposits. "People with vision impairments should not be set adrift in society. These incidents are blatant examples of discrimination against people who are blind, furthered by policies based on outdated stereotypes about people with vision impairments," said Bill Lann Lee, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "We need to recognize that people who are blind are competent to live independently, to travel independently, and to be effective employees and participants in our communities." In the complaint, the DOJ seeks a federal court order requiring Norwegian Cruise Lines to change its policies and practices, educate its employees about the need to accommodate people with disabilities, compensate Mr. Gomes and Mr. and Mrs. Stigile, and pay a civil penalty. The Justice Department has attempted to negotiate a settlement with Norwegian Cruise Lines, but to date has received no response to a settlement offer.