How To Accommodate A Yacht Tour For People With All Abilities
If you’re planning a special luxury yacht tour, whether its for your office, for family and friends visiting the Chicago area, or an awards ceremony to honor someone deserving, you want everyone to be able to attend. The comfort and capabilities of all your attendees needs to be considered when planning your event.
Keep some things in mind when you look over the venues around the city and remember that not all vessels have the same amenities. You’ll want to call the event coordinator to see what they can do to provide any additional accommodations.
Accessibility For All Guests
Your guests must be able to get aboard the yacht, and that means getting from the parking lot onto the ship. As of this year, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) no longer has specific requirements for ferries, charter boats, or similar small vessels. This doesn’t mean that charter cruises are not ADA compliant, only that they are not required to be.
- Parking should be accessible for wheelchairs and other mobility devices and should ideally have loading zones near the entrance for mobility-challenged individuals to exit their vehicles.
- Gangways should be level with the dock and wide enough for wheelchairs, mobility devices, and multiple people. It’s common for a typical boarding dock to be lower than street level, reached by narrow steps, and the “gangplank” to be wide enough for a single individual. Your preference should be for a gangway (or “passarelle”) that is wide enough that three people can walk side-by-side.
- Handrails should be sturdy, and both the dock and the gangway should be well-lit and free of debris or obstructions.
Getting from the parking lot to the ship should be easy for everyone, no matter what their condition.
Safety When On the Ship
Ships traditionally have narrow hallways, high-silled doors, and cramped quarters. Yachts designed for luxury tours have none of those, but they can still be too small to comfortably accommodate those with differing needs. Make sure the event coordinator can meet the requirements of everyone coming on your tour by asking a few specific questions.
- Doors and hallways must be wide enough for a wheelchair or mobility device, or for two people side-by-side. Hallways should be well-lit and feature sturdy handrails where possible. Even the ablest-bodied person sometimes needs a handrail on the water.
- If your event will take place on multiple levels, there should be ramps or lifts to move people easily from floor to floor. Any yacht that has only stairs is not fully-accessible.
- Dining facilities must give ample space for mobility devices, oxygen tanks, and other devices. This is where you and the event coordinator must communicate clearly. The shipboard coordinator can only accommodate what you tell them you need.
- Restroom facilities aboard ships, even entertainment yachts, are often small. Individuals with mobility issues may need more space, or more time in the facilities.
- Weather-related concerns can be discussed on the day of the event. If the cruise becomes windy or the water gets choppy, you may want to inquire about wheelchair immobilization devices or other methods of securing guests.
If you have any guests who have dietary requirements, and you are not providing the chef, be sure to give clear instructions to the event coordinator. Allergies to certain foods, celiac disease, and other food-related illnesses are not always thought of as “disabilities,” but they are debilitating, and should be given the same consideration as guests with mobility issues.
A Word About Service Animals
Under the ADA, a “service animal” is a dog (or under certain circumstances a miniature horse) that has been trained to perform certain tasks related to its owner’s disability. Disabilities need not be physical. Psychiatric disabilities are recognized as requiring the support of a service animal. Some examples of psychiatric service dogs are those who assist their owners with PTSD, autism, panic attacks, Down syndrome, and other issues.
To meet the definition of a service animal, there must be a link between the task the animal does and the disability the person has. A guide dog who leads its owner about with a harness is one example; so is a PTSD dog that wakes its owner from a stress-related nightmare. However, an “emotional support dog” that simply calms by its presence does not meet the definition of a service animal under the ADA.
Places of “public accommodation” must allow service animals into their facilities and cannot inquire about either the owner’s disability or the animal’s training or certification, under the law. Emotional support animals can be excluded. However, people sometimes get upset when told their emotional support dogs cannot accompany them into certain locations.
Service animals are allowed on charter yachts, but most will not allow emotional support dogs. You will need to discuss this with your event coordinator.
Planning Your Event
When it’s time to plan your gala event, contact Anita Dee Yacht Charters at (312) 379-3191. We’ll discuss your concerns about accommodating all members of your party, no matter what special requirements they may have. Our company has nearly 50 years of experience in the hospitality business, one of our experienced Chicago private yacht coordinators would work with you to be sure that everyone can get aboard and have the best time possible as you cruise along the Chicago skyline. Contact us today.