Good day ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Reservations, Please, Ensuring Access for Customers with Disabilities. At this time all participants are in the listen only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session and instructions will follow at that time. If anyone should require audio assistance during the conference, please press star then zero to reach an operator. I would not like to turn the call over to Marian Vessels.
Good morning or good afternoon. And welcome to the ADA Audio Teleconferencing Series. My name is Marian Vessels and I''ll be serving as the moderator for this session. I am the director of the DBTAC Mid-Atlantic ADA Center for the ADA National Network. And it''s my pleasure to join you on this call as the collaborative ADA National Network. The ADA Audio Conference Series is offered monthly and offers a variety of topics on the ADA. Today''s topic is Reservations, Please. We are privileged to be joined by our speakers Laurel Van Horn and Ron Petit. And I will be introducing them shortly. Individuals are joining us today and using a variety of mediums, including telephones, streaming audio on the Internet and real time captioning. Those who need real time captioning should be using the URL that was sent to you when you registered. Refer to your instructions for that URL. A written transcription of this session will be created, edited and posted to the www.ADA-audio.org website along with the digital recording of the session within 10 business days following the conclusion of this program. Our speakers today will provide us with some valuable information. And at the conclusion of his or her presentation, there will be an opportunity for everyone to ask questions. We will be pausing after Laurel''s presentation and then after Ron''s to do that. The operator will provide instructions when we are ready to take questions. Depending on the number of questions, we may not be able to get to all of your concerns or issues today. If you do have further questions, we encourage you to follow up with questions to your regional ADA center by calling 1-800-949-4232 voice TTY. Let me then begin today''s session by introducing you to Laurel Van Horn. Laurel Van Horn has specialized in accessible travel and hospitality since 1987, working as a writer, educator and access consultant. For the past five years she''s been the editor and research director for Open Doors Organization, a Chicago based nonprofit that specializes in the disability market. Laurel''s most recent projects include an accessibility guide for Springfield, Illinois and a complaints resolution officials training program and manual foreign airlines serving the U.S. Market. ODO or Open Doors Organization''s easy access guides are available in print and online. There''s more information about Laurel on her bio on the website. But without further ado, I''d like to turn it over to Laurel. Laurel thanks for joining us today.
Thank you. It''s really my pleasure. I call my presentation today Seven Steps to Great Customer Service. I know on a past audio conference the focus was really on the structural elements of businesses. But today we''re going to focus more on customer service and this is really to provide some tips so that you just tune up your property and do a better job for that part of your market. Slide two please. I don''t want to really go through all of this overview because we don''t have much time, but I want to start off today by talking first about the research which Open Doors Organization does on a disability travel market and then we''ll move into the different seven steps to improve your customer service. And finally, I''ll list some resources which you can refer to, to further your training as you move forward in working with these particular types of customers. Next slide please. Open Doors Organization was founded in 2000. It''s a disability related nonprofit. It''s based in Chicago. And it really made its mark in the travel industry by doing two nationwide surveys on travelers with disabilities. And these surveys were done in 2002 and 2005 and we actually hired Harris Interactive to conduct the surveys for us. And our objectives were really to find out how much people were traveling, how much they were spending, and also what resources they were using to plan and book their travel. And then we wanted to know specifically what their experiences were with airlines, airports, hotels, restaurants and car rental agencies. We added that last group of businesses in 2005 because that''s also an important part of travel. We also wanted to determine what obstacles they encountered during travel and hospitality and to estimate the market impact as potential. Next slide please. So just to give a few figures so that we understand how big this market is, in 2006 we found that 69 percent of adults with disabilities or 21 million people had traveled at least once over a two year period. This compares very closely to what we found in 2002, which was 71 percent of adults with disabilities. So contrary to the myth, people with disabilities are actually out there traveling. They''re not just staying home. On average they took two trips over the two year period and these were mostly for pleasure. And there was also a sub group in both 2002 and 2005 of frequent travelers. 20 percent of adults with disabilities who travel at least six times every two years. And we found that expenditure on travel was actually 13.5 billion annually. So this really woke up the travel market and it got a lot of attention around the country in the different newspapers like the New York Times. This was really news. People were really spending real money on travel. Slide five please. And another thing which was really surprising was how much people with disabilities were really using the Internet to book their travel and also to support their disability related travel needs. And this actually exceeded the usage by the general public. Only 40 percent of the general public was booking online in 2005, but we found that more than half of those who travel used the internet to book their trips. These are people with disabilities traveling. And so even sometimes you don''t get all the information you want online, people were still using this resource more than the general public. Next slide please. In terms of how many people were using hotels, we actually found that 52 percent of adults with disabilities had stayed in a hotel over the two year period. And they were staying in these hotels three times every two years. And this had actually increased from 2002 when the median was two times every two years. Satisfaction was on the rise, but 60 percent of hotel users were still reporting obstacles when they stayed in hotels, 48 percent physical obstacles, 45 percent service personnel and 15 percent communication related. So these are sort of the things we''re going to be talking about today, looking at some of these particular obstacles and how we can do a better job to remove them. And quite a bit of money is being spent on hotels by this market, 4.2 billion dollars annually is being spent on hotels by people with disabilities in the U.S. And people also indicated in the 2002 study that they would stay in hotels two more times per year if the hotels would better accommodate their needs as people with disabilities. And the top features are services the hotel would have to provide to do that, to better meet their needs were first, having rooms close to the entrance, hotel restaurants and transportation, and second having more accommodating staff. And we''re really going to focus on the second one of these issues today. Next slide please. We also looked at how many people were out patronizing restaurants. And between 2002 and 2005 there were actually, the number going out to fast foods once per week was 53 percent in 2002 and 50 percent in 2005. So that stayed about even. For casual dining, increase from 36 percent in 2002 to 42 percent in 2005. And at the same time we found that the formal dining had actually declined somewhat. So in 2002, 35 percent of people had gone out at least once a week to a more formal restaurant and in 2005 this had decreased to 22 percent. But still, when you look at this, you see how many people are out on a weekly basis to eat out, this is pretty remarkable. Next slide please. At the same time, two thirds of adults, 64 percent of adults with disabilities had encountered obstacles in restaurants. 62 percent of these obstacles were physical, 27 percent were service and personnel related and 22 percent were communication related. Well the biggest complaint was something that''s really not that hard to fix, it''s the lack of space between tables. 40 percent of people actually stated that that was the problem that they encountered. Next slide please. I put a picture on this slide of the cover of our latest access guide, Easy Access Springfield. In doing these guides, we did specific sites, as it''s to hundreds of properties. And a lot of what I have to talk about today has really come from my experience in the field in doing this research in Chicago and now most recently in Springfield. And the Springfield guide is just hot off the press. It actually just came out of the printer yesterday. So we''re doing a release this week but you can already find it up online at www.easyaccessspringfield.org And this is, you can see this on the slide in order to get the link. Next slide please. So in this slide is the title Seven Steps to Great Customer Service. And then I''ve shown pictures here of a gentleman seated in a wheel chair signing in at a lower counter at a hotel, another gentleman who is standing with his service dog and talking over the counter to one of the front desk staff; and then another lady who''s traveling with an adult with a mental disability, a developmental disability. Next slide please. So step one that I want to focus on is fine tuning your property. As we found in our research at Open Doors, many common barriers are often simple and inexpensive to fix. And one of the most common is simply heavy doors. In the 2005 ODO studies, 36 percent of respondents listed this as a barrier in hotels and 33 percent listed this is as a barrier in restaurants. Often you can simple adjust the tension on the door. For exterior doors, however, you may want to add a doorbell or if your budget allows, an automatic door opener. Another barrier, which is really simple to fix, is the door knobs, latches and switches that require tight grasping and twisting. So for people who are quadriplegic or people who have some kind of a problem with their hands, maybe due to arthritis, it''s really hard to get hold of and turn a door knob or to work a fiddly latch or switch. So these are things that you just need to be more aware of and then you can easily switch out. Next slide please. You also want to pay attention to furniture and other non structural items. And these are often not covered by the ADA access standards. Basically the ADA guidelines cover things that are built into the property, so they don''t cover most furniture. So for example in hotel rooms, I know any of you that travel you know the beds are getting higher and higher. And this makes it really difficult for an easy transfer over from a wheelchair. So the universally accessible solution would be to have an adjustable bed where you could lower and raise the bed easily. Instead you may have to take off the box springs in order to lower the bed for your customer. Another thing in hotel rooms is a lot of hotels use platform type beds and then you can''t slide a Hoyer lift underneath, so you really want to have a bed which has open space underneath it so that if somebody needs that kind of a lift they can slide that lift under the bed. Handles and knobs on furniture is another barrier that''s very common in hotels. You can do a closed fist test to see if you can get hold of a handle or knob. For example, on dresser drawers or on the TV cabinet, and you may also have just too much furniture for the space and it''s going to block your path of travel, which is supposed to be 36 inches wide. And it may also block turning spaces and radii in the room. Next slide please. Another thing which can be a barrier is the design of dining tables. And certainly one thing that we see a lot is the bar areas in restaurants or the bars themselves simply don''t have accessible tables or coffee tables where a patron sitting in a wheelchair can set their drink. They may just have the high counters and stools. So this is something that you, you know, just by adding one table you may meet that requirement under the ADA for five percent. And you want to look under your table and see what kind of a base it is. Sometimes the pedestal bases block your toe clearance if you''re trying to pull in with your wheelchair. And you often see this in patio tables, for example. And again, you want to leave space between tables with the chairs pulled out. I mean, this is something I learned as an auditor. You know, I went in a restaurant and it looked fine. But that was because I was there when there weren''t any patrons. When I went back in the evening, all the chairs were pulled out, people were in there, and it was hard for even the wait staff to get in between the tables. So you also want to provide path of travel to different sections in your dining area in your restaurant so that people have a choice of where they can sit. And again, in the 2005 ODO study we found that the main customer service obstacle in restaurants was, quote, the lack of availability of seating I want, unquote. So again, people want the same experience. They want to have a choice. And that''s a good part of customer service. Slide 15 please, then when we talk about fine tuning the restrooms. Often it''s hard to see what the reach range is going to be if you have to reach across something. It''s hard to estimate. For smaller people who are using wheel chairs, it''s often really hard to reach the soap dispenser. And you know, your hands get dirty if you''re using a manual chair. You always want to get your hands washed, but you can''t reach the soap. So you can put a liquid soap dispenser on the counter. That helps. You might add a stack of paper towels there as well so that people can easily wash their hands and dry their hands. Accessible stall doors, you may want to add a handle on the outside as well as the inside. If you''re ambulatory you often reach up and take the top of the door to open the door, but if you''re sitting in a chair not everybody can reach down and try to get hold of something. So add the handle, it''s a simple fix. And you may need to reverse the door swing if it swings in and blocks access. People don''t think about it. I mean if you go in, in a wheel chair and now you can''t get the door shut because it can''t come past the chair, then obviously that is not even an accessible stall anymore. Another thing is you may want to remove a sink in the wheel chair stall if it blocks the space that''s next to the toilet, what we call a lateral transfer space. Slide 16 please. Another thing to watch out in fine tuning your property to watch out for is the moveable items that can block access. And in hotels this could be potted plants and brochure stands that are in the lower counter at registration. You''ve got that lowered section and now you''ve got it blocked up with potted plants or things of interest to people like brochures for local attractions. And this is supposed to be welcoming but instead it''s saying we aren''t paying attention to you, so it''s good to keep that area clear. In restaurants, I often find that extra chairs are in the hallways leading to the restrooms because it''s limited space, and they want the chairs out of the way, but this is a barrier for anybody in a wheel chair. In restrooms the waste bins or small tables can get in the way of access. And in stores and gift shops, the moveable display racks, often there may be too many of them or you know, in cleaning they may have been pushed aside and they''re not in the way. So just keeping an eye on all of these things on a regular basis helps to ensure access for everybody. Next slide please. Another thing for hotels is to train housekeeping staff to prepare the adapted rooms for guests using wheelchairs. Now these rooms are designed for everybody o use, but you really want to make it easy for your guests who do use wheel chairs to enjoy the room. And so you want to leave the adjustable showerhead at the lowest position, you want to put remotes on the bedside table and not leave them on top of the TV cabinet, you don''t want to hang the towels on the grab bars, you want to leave those free for people to use for what they''re intended. So those are just some common little tips for your housekeeping staff. And when people come in a room and they see this, this is what you''ve done, they know that you''re paying attention again to their needs and it''s a very welcoming thing for them. You may also have a staff member accompany guests to their room to make any changes needed. That way, the guest doesn''t have to call down to the front desk to ask you to take out, for example, a chair, or to move the remote control or whatever; you''re ready to assist them right away. And again, you''re saying your business is valuable to us. Another thing to look out for is any overhead hazards and protruding objects. Anything above 27 inches is not going to be cane detectable. So this could be things sticking out like drinking fountains or fire extinguishers. You may also want to watch out for any unenclosed staircases and put a railing underneath or some potted plants underneath so there is something for people to detect with their cane. Next slide please. So one of the things, one of the secrets to keep things fine tuned is to assign somebody who actually, this is part of their job description, to keep an eye on the property and to be aware of things which may be barriers for guests with disabilities. And while you may assign this responsibility to one person, if you''re a large enterprise you may instead want to have an access committee with one access manager or coordinator in charge of it. And this person becomes the go to person in the company. They can help prevent and resolve complaints. They can also bring the access perspective to all policies, facilities and services. If you designate such a person however, they will need to develop their expertise, and so at the end I''ve listed some resources for that and I also advice you to contact professional organizations, such as AH and LA, the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the National Restaurant Association. They have training materials and videos which can be very helpful for the access manager as well as for your staff training. And I know that Ron Petit is going to talk more about this topic and give concrete examples for all of these things which I''m discussing in the next half hour. Next slide please. Another way to ensure great customer service is to promote your accessibility. Now in promoting your accessibility what you''re really doing is you''re providing information to your customers with disabilities. And information is a highly valued customer service for this market. You want to post specific information online about your accessible facilities and services and you also want to make it easy for them to find that information by putting a universal access symbol or wheelchair symbol on the home page with a link to the access information. Many times I''ll online knowing that the information is there at a particular website and 15 minutes later I still haven''t found it. So you don''t want to do that for your guests, you want to make it easy for them. You also want to make sure that your websites meet accessibility standards themselves and I listed some resources that will help you attain this result. Next slide please. So for hotels and motels you want to post specific information about your accessible facilities, services and policies and a good way to do this is to list it by type of disabilities. So if I have a vision loss, I can look at that particular group of information and not have to read all about mobility and hearing as well. And if you look at the easy access guides that ODO does, this is how we actually list our information. You can go right in there and go right into the features for people with hearing loss or the features for people with vision loss or those specifically for mobility. So the information could include anything to do with your accessible public areas, the features of your wheelchair accessible rooms, not only do you have a roll in shower, but you have a roll in shower with a king bed in the room or two double beds. For hearing adapted rooms what features are built in, so it could be the strobe alarm in the bathroom, it could be the strobe alarm in the guest room, it might be a built in visual alert for the door. You also want to list any adaptive equipment that you have, again, grouped by disability type, for example a portable shower bench or the ADA kit for the deaf and hard of hearing. Also, do you have any information brail, large print or recorded message, either your menu or your hotel guest information? And if you have an airport shuttle that you''re providing, is it accessible, and if not, how much advance notice do people have to give? Next slide please. While the ideal is that people with disabilities who need an accessible room should be able to book it online, generally most hotel chains you still can''t do that. One big advance recently, which began last November, was that hotels.com and expedia.com now provide the basic access information for their properties online. So you can go in there and select that you want a room with a rolling shower. Now you may not be able to get the rolling shower with the particular bed type you want. You have to reserve without knowing that generally. And then either hotels.com or expedia.com their staff will call the hotel, check to see that they have what you want and then call you back within 48 hours, and if they don''t have it they''ll try to find another hotel in the same price range for you. So there''s still a middle man, but there''s still a lot more information than there used to be. Next slide please. And again, in your information that you put in the room you want to list any adaptive equipment, you may want to put a sign at the front desk that notes the availability of a TTY or ADA visual alerting devices. I''m more commonly seeing this now. Because often people don''t request them because they don''t know that you have them. So you spent the money and bought them so let''s get people using them, it''s safer for everybody. You also want to include access information including room counts in your sales kits for meeting planners and travel agents. Meeting planners have to plan accessible conferences now. They need to know about your facilities and your services for your guests with disabilities. Travel agents also, you know, a lot of them have clients who are getting older and they need the accessibility now and they need this information also. And so if you give hotel tours to agents or meeting planners, include the accessible guest room as well as the standard rooms and suites. They''ll appreciate being able to see those facilities so that they know what they''re offering their guests. Next slide please. Restaurants, obviously, it''s less information that you need to worry about, but again, you want to cover your entrance, your dining areas and your restroom if, for example, it''s single use or not, that''s something that people would love to know. Do you have a brighter area or a quieter seating area? Do you have a brail or a large print menu? Are your specials listed in print? Can you handle any special dietary requests? These are all things which it''s really helpful to know in advance. And more and more restaurants now have their menus online. This benefits everybody, including people with vision loss who have a screen reader and they can check out the menu in advance. And if you can take reservations by email, that''s great, that''s very good for people with hearing and speech disabilities. Next slide please. Now that you educated the consumer, you also want the information to also be available for your front desk and reservation staff. You''ve pulled it together now for your customers so now you''ve got it for your staff as well. I mean in the past we''ve had to advise people to talk to engineering or talk to housekeeping with questions about rooms or equipment. It''s really great if the people at the front desk and reservations can provide the help right away. In the 2005 ODO study the second most common problem in hotels were personnel not being aware of services provided for people with disabilities. You also want to provide awareness training, and I know that Ron Petit is going to discuss more about this. Next slide please. And basically what you want to do is give the staff the skills they need to succeed and this includes focusing on basic customer service. So they don''t need to know everything, they need to say how may I assist you and then to then follow directions. And you want to teach person first language as well as words to avoid. So the word handicapped, for example, is offensive to many people with disabilities. Instead you want to say accessible parking and accessible van and accessible guest room. And again, just the basics, the basic assistance techniques, such as just providing orientation and guiding for someone who''s blind, or helping somebody with a service animal, and basic communication for people with hearing or speech disabilities. Next slide please, and specialized training, how to operate a TTY for the front desk or reservations, how to set up an ADA kit in the room for your engineering or housekeeping staff. And always, safety and emergency policies and procedures are so important for customers and guests with disabilities; you want to make sure that your staff is well trained in these areas. Next slide please. And involve disability organizations in your training. Provide initial and recurrent training. And also, hire people with disabilities. That''s one of the quickest ways to raise awareness and break down attitudinal barriers. Next slide please. I know I''m running late, so I''m going to speed up a little bit. We want to meet individual needs. This is actually required under the ADA. Businesses must modify their policies, practices and facilities in order to provide non discriminatory service to a particular individual with a disability. Now you''re not required to make modifications that would constitute undue burden or fundamentally alter your program. But you would, for example, have to lower that bed height if somebody needed that or provide some other service that they might need, like something in large print. Next slide please. And you want to resolve complaints promptly. The quicker you can resolve something the more the person''s going to be able to enjoy their holiday and get on with life. So if you have the proper training and your staff knows who to get in touch with if there is a problem, then this is not really going to be an issue. And I know that Ron will also talk about this topic. This is a list of resources which is available at the DBTAC and includes things like how to make sites accessible and some of the basic department of justice, DOJ, ADA home page and so on. So these are some basic resources which you can use. And also, Open Doors Organization has a free CD on request, Assistive Devices for Motels and Restaurants. And we''re happy to send that to you if you contact us at 773-388-8839 or you can email us info at opendoorsnst.org. And this is listed on the slide. Thank you so much Marian back to you.
Thank you very much Laurel. I think that was very helpful. And we''ll be able to build on it with Ron next presentation. I would like to open the floor up for a couple of questions that may have been sparked by Laurel''s presentation. Jamie, can you give us instructions please?
All speaker lines are open.
Okay. Thank you. Can we now move on to Ron? Ron Petit is the accessibility manager for Royal Caribbean Cruises and he is responsible for the access program for Royal Caribbean''s three brands, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and the Marriot which has a combined fleet of 33 ships. He also works to ensure that employees ensure the accommodations that are arranged and delivered for guests with disabilities. And he''s worked closely with the new build team to ensure accessibility for two new builds according to the ADA Act and company standards. Prior to this he spent 17 years at Northwest Airlines. While at Northwest he was responsible for improving air travel access for over 3.3 million annual customers with disabilities and ensuring access compliance. It''s really a pleasure to welcome Ron Petit to our presentation today. Ron, take it away.
Thank you very much, Marian. It''s a pleasure to be here today. What I wanted to do today was to talk a little about how we ensure access for customers with disabilities. And before I began I wanted to talk about, you know, the business case though. It''s not only the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense to cater to people with disabilities. The customers are there and Laurel with Open Doors Organization research showed that the customers are there and that they have money to spend. And when they find a good company that they like and accommodate their needs, they are brand loyal. You know, one of the interesting statistics I''ve found is three out of every four adults will switch to a company that has a good cause. So you know, businesses are there to make money and if they find that catering to people with disabilities does that, it will help. One thing that I wanted to, a couple statistics I also wanted to bring out was as you know I work for Royal Caribbean. The cruise industry in the Open Doors study showed that 12 percent of people with disabilities have taken a cruise within the last five years. And you compare that to the CLLIA study who''s the international association, the trade association of the cruise industry shows that 10 percent of the U.S. Population has taken a cruise in the last three years. And when you take a look at those numbers you see this slight increase of people with disabilities cruising. And that''s because the cruise industry has taken steps to become more accessible for people with disabilities. On another note, I know that Laurel talked a lot about hotels and in 2002 general accounting office research show that since ADA was implemented in hotel hospitality revenues have increased 12 percent attributive specifically to people with disabilities. Now the business case is there and so what I wanted to do was to go through my presentation, starting off with slide three talking about focus on standards. Now the presentation today is to really focus on my years and experience as an access manager both and Northwest Airlines, and well, Caribbean Cruise Lines. And kind of give you some ideas and best practices on how to build, ensure access for customers with disabilities. The first one is to just focus on the standards. Everyone focuses on meeting the standards, you know, have a checklist. And what you want to do is meet the required guidelines, you know, ADA, ADAG Air Carriers Act with the airlines and those guidelines are the starting point. And sometimes you do have to get creative. You know, Laurel went through some examples of how businesses can modify, fine tune their property or facility to meet the needs of customers with disabilities. One of the things examples that I want to bring out is on our cruise ships we have multiple swimming pools. ADA would say that you have to put a pool life at every pool. Well, we get creative and put a socket at each pool and we buy one lift that can be moved from one pool to another. And that shows a little bit of creativity, but you''re meeting ADA but you''re also looking at your cost as well. But you also want to go beyond the guidelines as Laurel mentioned and talked about the bed height. One of the things that we did at Royal Caribbean is put in automatic doors to the accessible state rooms. Each of our ships has a number of accessible state rooms that are specifically designed for people with disabilities. And then on some of our ships, for example, the Solsis or the Celebrity brand, they have automatic doors. That means the guest can enter the key card into the door and the door will automatically open and close. It makes it much easier for our guests with disabilities to get in and out and it will give them a level of independence. What you also want to do is make sure the checklists is available, that means giving multiple channels, multiple areas, different departments, including the audit team. Most companies have some sort of audit program and you can incorporate them while they''re accessing your customer service and facilities, they could be looking at some ADA or access related issues. Use the checklist regularly. And again, that means don''t wait for the order to come out every quarter, you check the checklist yourself. One of the things, this is not an access related thing, but at Northwest Airlines, they did a survey through the customer eyes. So what you do is you look at your facility and property from a customer standpoint and say how do I approach the facility, how do I navigate through the facility, and if you look at the customer''s point of view, it gives you a little better insight about what''s important to them. And then again, also update the check list, meaning if you identify access related issues that don''t really cover federal guidelines or your state guidelines, you want to add it to your check list to make sure. For example, a lot of the elements that Laurel talked about, keeping the lower counter clear and other things like that should be built into your checklist. It needs to be part of the mantra that your operations people have in terms of manning your facility. You know, focusing on the standards and having a check list not only gives you compliancy with the federal regulation, but it gives you consistency across multiple facilities, multiple sites, especially when you have high turnover people. Having those standards there help build that consistency and reliability for your access for your customers. Next slide four the main thing that I have talked about is listening to y our customers. And there''s a variety of ways you can do that. And the first one is to review complaint letters. This already exists. There''s already sort of a customer service department that reviews customer concerns and feedback and those exist today. And so what you may want to do is to go and have them specially coded, a lot of companies code those complaints. Make sure that there''s a disability related code. You may need to take the extra step of getting the actual letters or the text verbatim so that you can identify the types of issues. Because the customer service department may not have that level of detail so you need to take that extra step to identify where the issues are and what you need to do to correct them. You also want to review the complaint resolution process. You know, Laurel talked a little bit about her presentation on that. And you want to take that into making sure that complaints are resolved promptly, by the right people, follow the natural chain of command. A lot of times, some companies say oh, well, I''ll give this check out person the ability to resolve complaints. Now most people are going to ask for a supervisor or they''re going to ask for a manager. Those people need to know ADA access related issues so that they can resolve the guest''s concerns to their best possible resolution. And one thing that we always get into sometimes is that our customers will talk about you''re required to do this by ADA and what you really want to do is turn the situation around and say what can we do? What are your needs and what do we need to do to meet your needs? Focus on that rather than the regulation. You know we find that the best way to resolve a situation. Well another way to listen to your customers is to use surveys and comment cards. At Northwest Airlines we did a disability survey. We had a very detailed survey about 40 questions and what we did is we pulled all of our frequent fliers that had special service request or wheelchair assistance. And we gave them incentives, miles, to complete the surveys and basically over a period of time the survey scores improved because we were taking the data given back to our, most of the information was related about specific airports, so we were able to go back to the specific airports and say, you know, our customers have a concern about x, y and z. So that was very instrumental in doing that. At Royal Caribbean what we did is we developed comment cards. Most companies have a comment card program. Well what we did is we developed a separate card that talks about disability related. We kept it short and sweet. It''s only five or six questions. But it gets us a very different spin. They already fill out the regular comment card, which is like 50 - 60 questions, so we wanted to keep disability comments cards short and sweet. We get real good information from that. And the last thing I''ll talk about listening to your customer is putting together an advisory board. And that''s one of the things that we did at Northwest Airlines is put together a group of people with disabilities, customers with disabilities and bring them in for a meeting. We did this on an annually, quarterly, bi monthly, like a year type thing. And we got customers that fly and said what can we do better? And what we did also was bring brain to different departments involved our reservation people folks, the in flight folks, we brought in reservations, we brought in senior executives. Sometimes a manager would say this is what our customers want, but until you put them in front of a person with a disability, then the light bulb goes off and then the start to really be oh, there''s a customer with a disability. Here''s an issue. Let''s go and resolve that. It''s great when you have that direct interaction with people with disabilities and the customer advisory board at Northwest Airlines was a great accomplishment and a way to do that. The other thing about listening to customers, don''t always listen to external customers, listen to your internal ones as well. You talk about your front line employees, your supervisors, your managers, because sometimes they get frustrated by certain things. They watch, maybe put the kids here, couldn''t we do this better? Listen to your internal customers as well. Next slide, I''m on slide five. Talk about building an access team. Now this slide may not apply to everybody. I mean, you know, we''ve got people who have small businesses; we''ve got people from big companies. So, you know, you can scale up or down this slide to reach your needs. But the first one is you really want to have an access manager who will talk about this and sort of go to person that is sort of like the decision maker on the access related policies and procedures for your company. Its kind of the essential point of contact. A lot of companies have an access and special needs department. Lots of cruise lines have a special needs department; I''ll talk in detail and tell you a little more about that. And it''s a way for consumer''s to enhance their experience. The other thing that we talked about is building part of your access team is having designated people in each department. The access manager can''t do it all, especially in mid or larger company. You need to have people designated in different areas, guest services, facilities, legal, customer service, and then put them together in a regular meeting format if it''s sort of a cross departmental team to say here''s what we''re facing as a company and here''s some basic issues. For example we did this at Northwest Airlines and we have periodic issues with service animals. So we used the interdepartmental task force to kind of address specific concerns where the call center] reservations, that''s their piece, but when it gets to the airport they have a piece of the puzzle and once it''s in flight, they also have a piece of the puzzle. But bringing those different departments together and your ADA or access experts, they kind of come up with a collaborative effort to resolve specific issues or concerns. That''s about building an access team. And then on slide six I wanted a little more detail about access special needs department. Again, I mentioned a lot of cruise lines have this. Some hotels have it. Airlines have this. And what it is basically a special trained front line staff. Basically we''re in the call center, we''re in the contact center, and what they do is they respond to customer inquiries. And again, it''s both internal and external. I run the access department at Royal Caribbean and a large portion of our calls come from direct guests. They also come from travel agents who represent our guests. And then we also have internal departments calling our access department. And what they do is they document requests for accommodation, answering queries and they make accommodations. And that''s the main thing about as Laurel mentioned about individual assessments. Many of our requests are fairly straight forward and can be quickly accommodated without any, well; we do have a lot of guests that come up with unique needs and something that''s sort of out of the box. And one of the things that we try to train our employees is heart, you know, access employees, the answer should not be no. The answer should be let''s see what we can do. And sometimes that takes a little longer. A lot of times the business is set up about opening and closing situations as quickly as possible. Sometimes with guests with disabilities you might need to do an additional little research and do a little information and see if we can do something. So that''s the spirit of ADA and that''s what we trained our employees to do. And one thing I want to mention is the access department has also talked a little bit about multiple channels. It''s going through, you know, it''s not just a call center. People send us inquiries by email. We have a special needs form that we send to our guests. Any reservations agent in our company can send this special needs form to our guests or travel agents and they fax this back in. So instead of making a call and going through that, they can use that fax process. So it''s important to have multiple channels and multiple ways for customers to contact you. And also it''s important to think about your deaf customers, too, and maybe think about making sure you have a TTY number in addition to your regular 800 number available. But again, that''s all about the access special needs department slide. Next slide, seven talk a little bit about promoting accessibility. And Laurel talked a little bit about this as well. And I thought it was so important to reiterate in my presentation because education is really key. It''s not just for the internal customers but also for the external customers. The one thing that we talked about is the Open Door study talks about barriers to travel. You know, people with disabilities have challenges in their life every day. They have challenges in navigating their home, getting out of their home, going to work, going to doctor''s appointments. And so they see the same barriers happening when they travel by air, for example. It''s a very common way of travel, but there are a lot of challenges for people. And so they naturally assume that travel is not going to be possible. So the main thing you have to educate consumers and customers are that it is possible. Your needs can be met. Here''s what we can provide for you. And so that can be done in a variety of different ways, like the website Laurel talked about that. I also want add, and talk about adding pictures, diagrams and charts and more information is better. You can never overload more information. Because the more information the consumer has about what you''re offering and what you can do for them, the more likely they are going to book and they''re going to travel. Brochures are really helpful sometimes. Both companies I''ve worked with we''ve had specialized brochures for customers with disabilities. It''s always a good highlight and key offering since they tell people with disabilities it''s possible to travel and here''s what we do at a very high level. And a lot of people in sales, particularly, both companies have sales departments and a lot of people use travel agents and say these brochures are really helpful because it starts to show them hey, you can do this, you can travel, you can fly, you can cruise, you can stay at a hotel or a resort. All those things are possible. Media is also great. Work closely with corporate communications department and make sure the message gets out there. Whenever you add a new accessibility feature make sure it''s noted out there that if you are going to add little people kits, for example, promote that as well. So that''s important to talk about promoting accessibility and just letting people know that it''s possible. The next slide is on training my last slide. We''ll talk a little bit about training. And again, the Open Door study talked a lot about the challenges in travel was focused on training. One thing you learn in business is training is not the answer. It''s a starting point. It''s the building block. But you want to build a great training program. It gets your people started. And its important to do recurrent training. A lot of people focus on the initial training, but its overload. Its information overload a lot of times when you talk about initial hire training, you talk about five weeks. There''s so much information going on and a lot of times when you talk about disability training you kind of talk about oh, how I may assist you and all the different ways you need to assist somebody in a wheelchair, somebody who''s blind. What I have found over the years is that really it boils down to basically basic service patterns. If you want them to walk away from training, this is what you want them to know. You want them to know to ask permission first. Okay? Laurel said how may I assist you? Well, we could face that with an ask permission first, because some people don''t want to be assisted. So, say may I assist you, or do you need assistance? So that''s the question you want to ask. If they say yes, I need help or I think so, then you say well, how can I help you? What can I do for you? And then the next part is to really listen because it''s easier said than done. You listen. You listen to their response because the customers with disabilities are the expert. They live with their disability every day of their life and no matter how much training they''ve had or transferring people or specifics, if you listen to the customer; you''re going to find out what their real needs are. And then, and that stuff is really simple, too, it''s follow the instructions. Do what they say. Don''t just listen and then do the opposite, so it''s important to do that and really what we find in training is that it''s going to teach people how to be comfortable. In the customer service world, what we have found is that a lot of people have not dealt with people with disabilities; the interaction has been somewhat infrequent. So when you see somebody in a wheel chair, somebody is blind it''s like the momentarily pause and they don''t know what to do. So the training has to build that level of confidence. It''s like it''s okay, it''s comfortable, just treat them like everybody else and let the basic customer service training take over. A lot of it''s also about adapt internal training as well, you know, Laurel talked about people [inaudible] and that starts [inaudible] about that, you know, we treat people, focus on the people first and not about their disability and talk about what their needs are. We find that we get a lot of guests contact us and they go I''ve had multiple operations, I''ve have this disability and they go great and it finally makes us comfortable because we know so much personal information. And really at the end of the day what we really know is what your needs are, what can I do to make your cruise more enjoyable, what can I do to make your hotel more enjoyable? Let''s see here. And again, the training is, you know, about providing basic information and making your employees feel comfortable around people with disabilities. The one other thing that''s not on the slide that I also wanted to bring up is what questions they need to ask. Because a lot of times you go through this basic question of how may I assist you, what accommodations do you need? Then you get more information, you need more information about how can I accommodate your need? And then one of the questions we always say is I need to know their weight. And we can''t ask them their weight. So what you ask is, mainly what you say is that we have a chair that accommodates up to 500 pounds, would that be appropriate for you? So that''s part of the training. That''s part of the direction that you want to give to your employees. Think creatively about how to ask the right questions. And you do role play in the training right? And I want to talk about using disability organizations to help you build your training programs, include them. Have people with disabilities in your training program. One of the things that we did at Northwest airlines was to build the customer advisory board into the training program. When the complaint resolution official training was happening at different hub cities, we would invite the customer advisory board members to attend the training and present their experience from the both positive and the negative experience. The reason for that is we want to show, have employees understand what a positive experience might look like, you know, so they can then repeat that behavior. And then what a negative experience looks like and what kind of behaviors they need to change. And that interaction and that dialogue helped employees to become more comfortable. So by including employees with disabilities in your training program makes it essential and it makes it a great program and it makes your employees feel more comfortable about people with disabilities. And again, you know, always include information about where they need to go to get more information. And that goes back to promoting accessibility. Your employees need to know where to find additional information. They can''t remember to know where the kits are. They may not remember that all the different accessibility features you have. Tell them where they can go for more information so that when a guest comes up either call it on the phone or comes up to the counter, that the employees can readily figure out what accessible features that you have. I think that''s the end of my presentation. I''ve ended a little early but I think that''ll hopefully open it up for more questions for us. So Marian.
Okay. Thank you, Ron. That was really, really informative. Operator, can you now give us instructions about how to ask for questions.
Ladies and gentlemen if you have a question at this time, please press the star key and then the one key on your touch tone telephone. If your question has been answered or you wish to remove yourself from the queue please press the pound key. Again, if you have a question, please press star one now.
In the meantime we have an email question that I''d like to start off with. It is we are attempting to ensure ADA compliant rooms are not released to persons without disabilities. However, our reservations systems cannot ensure people with disabilities are asking for or reserving accessible rooms. How can we ensure ADA compliant rooms are released only to those who need them? We are concerned that if we don''t hold back ADA compliant rooms, we classify them as occupied in the online reservation system so that only people with disabilities can reserve them by calling the hotel directly. We''re then concerned we would be setting up a discriminatory system by requiring people with disabilities to only reserve a room by calling the hotel directly. Otherwise, ADA compliant rooms will be available to anyone without a disability and result in a situation where our facility does have available rooms but not ones that are accessible, those that were requested by someone without disabilities who wanted just a larger bathroom. The last comment was wow, hope that makes sense. Anyone want to take that?
This is Ron from Royal Caribbean. I think I can start with that question. At the cruise industry we work a little differently than hotels, but some of the ideas are basically the same, a couple of things can happen. One is that you do hold back accessible rooms from the general inventory and then have it only assigned to people with disabilities as they make their reservations. That''s what we do at Royal Caribbean. We actually busy them out of general inventory. And then when they want the accessible rooms, they contact my access department to get that room. We don''t require documentation for the room, but we just ask what kind of disability, what kind of accommodations or room features do they require to accommodate their disability? And that''s the question that they generally ask if they need an accessible room. Now then about six weeks prior to sailing, if all the accessible rooms haven''t been used, we release them to general inventory. And then at that point, what happens is if somebody with a disability makes a booking, a reservation for a cruise, which happens a lot, sometimes they''re booking closer into the cruise these days, what we then do is go back and move people around. And it takes a little time, it takes a little effort, but that''s what we do. It doesn''t happen all the time. What we find is that generally about 25 percent of the time or so people with disabilities actually occupy the accessible state rooms. And so what you do is you find a way to set up your process to do that. Now I know that some companies will release all the rooms to everybody, so that means that people without disabilities will get accessible rooms. You just need to let them know that they may be a possibility of being moved in order to share equal access for your customers with disabilities. I hope that''s helpful.
The one question that they had, was do you feel that it''s discriminatory to force a person with a disability to call in as opposed to reserving online?
I think that some of the comments that I made, and I wanted to rephrase that too, was about that what we do is sort of in spirit with what federal agencies have advised land based hotels how to deal with accessible rooms. I think that what you''ll find is that it will be discriminatory if you ask people with disabilities to reserve rooms in a different way. And that''s a challenge because I know that there''s different system IT issues, there''s different procedural issues. But what you want to do is make it as equal as possible. So if everybody can reserve by calling the 800 number, then you need to allow people with disabilities to call and reserve an accessible room via 800 number and not calling the property direct. Because you wouldn''t make a person without a disability call the property direct.
OK, operator, do we have any more questions?
We do have a question from Rick Edwards.
Hi, my first question was for Laurel. In your presentation on slide eight I don''t know if you misspoke or if it was misprinted, but the casual dining restaurants, TGI Fridays or Outback, you said I thought 36 percent in 2002 and it''s printed at 53 percent, which one is it?
Yes. There was an error on the slide, which will be corrected on the website. They didn''t have a chance to correct it before. So it was actually 36 percent in increase.
Okay. I had two questions. One was, if I can, one was in regards to moving stalls to provide the accessible stalls, have you ever come against the department of health rules for the number of stalls you have to have in a particular facility, and if so, which one trumps which? Does the ADA win out or does the department of health or the requirements for the number of stalls win out?
I would have to say that sometimes that depends on the jurisdiction. I know I''ve been in a hotel in Florida, for example, where the health department won out. And they really didn''t have a proper accessible stall. As a result it was simply an ambulatory stall. So I think often that depends on your local jurisdiction as well.
Okay. And Jeremy from my area here has a question.
Yes. I actually have a couple of questions. One for Laurel, do you know if the ADA has set a spec for how much space needs to be between tables in a restaurant?
The only specification would be that 36 inch path of travel.
Okay and is that before the chairs are pulled out from the table or with people sitting at the table?
That would be the actual, if I came into a restaurant in a wheel chair I would have to have that path of travel.
But obviously if the requirement is only five percent of seating, you don''t have to have every table accessible. What you can do is create some pathways through the restaurant which will allow people to get to different sections. And I know Ron can also address this situation because.
Yes. It''s the same thing.
Yes. It''s limited space.
Okay. Thank you. Also along those lines, has the ADA set a spec for assistive technology like transfer benches and shower chairs? What types should be used and what types shouldn''t?
No, again, that''s not addressed in ADA. In ADA the requirement is for a fold down transfer seat in the roll in shower.
What I''m finding is the hotels don''t do it because often those become damaged and frequently now you''ll go in and you won''t see any, which means that without that portable bench, the person really can''t take a shower.
Right. And then for Ron, I actually have a disability. I lost both of my legs in a car accident a couple of years ago, and I''m interested in going on a cruise. My question is what should my expectations be as a person with a disability for how much assistance the staff of the cruise line would give me with being able to access things in the different ports that the cruise stops at, like being able to go see Mayan Ruins or being able to travel around to the different sites on an island?
Well, you''ve asked a question about port accessibility and maybe likely shore excursion accessibility. I think that one of the things that our listeners should be aware of is that cruise lines operate outside the United States and stop in many, of the Caribbean Islands, European ports, that don''t have ADA guidelines in effect. So what we do is we do the best of our ability to ensure that there''s access on and off the ship. You know, a lot of places will have dock access where you can just roll on and roll off the ship, but other places we''re going to have tendering, which poses a challenge. What happens in a tender situation is when there''s no docks available, the ship has to anchor out in the bay and then what we do is we transfer our guests from the big ship to a much smaller ship called a tender and then we sort of ferry them into the port. And because there are moving elements and all of that there can be situations where we may not be able to transfer you onto the tender. We make a very reasonable effort depending on the situation. Sometimes the seas are very rough and we can''t do it at all. Sometimes it poses a situation there. When you get to the actual ports you''ll find that a lot of places do have accessibility. It may be limited. There may not be quite the curb cuts you''re used to; there may be cobblestone streets, those types of things. But we find that different ports have been upgrading accessibility. Around the world there have been, there''s over 600 million people with disabilities in multiple different countries and they''re increasing awareness of people with disabilities and access. So you''re starting to see some improvement there. I know that many of our international ports of call we also work with tour operators to provide accessible tours, shore excursions, and by that I mean it''s like it comes with sort of an accessible transportation, either a van with a ramp or a bus with a lift. But it allows people in wheelchairs to fully go on shore excursions. So there is some of that and there''s some accessibility that comes with it. I think that what you have to do is do some research.
The internet is a great place and you can use a travel agent that may also specialize in accessible travel and they can help you.
My question is as a person with a disability, should I expect the staff on the cruise line to already know what the accessibility will be on shore?
Generally the cruise ship staff will know a little bit more on the actual ship. Our shore side staff tends to know the high level information. But because we don''t physically, our shore side staff doesn''t physically access department every single port of call, the ship [inaudible] is usually the best resource for knowing some of that information. And again, we partner a lot with the travel agencies and there are many travel agents who specialize in accessible travel and they visited some of the ports. And there are some that specialize in accessible cruises as well. So they''ve also had firsthand experience with different ports of call so they would be a great resource for you to figure out which cruise would be best for you.
Okay. My last question this kind of goes back to that first emailed question about holding accessible rooms back. But both of you can handle this. Is there a cue online that tells people with disabilities that even if it doesn''t show it available that they should call because it may well be?
After you answer that, why don''t we move on and get other folks a chance to ask questions.
Okay. Sure. That would certainly be a very good idea. I mean, it would also be good if you''re listing your accessible rooms online to say that if you''re reserving this room and you don''t, yourself, have a disability, we may have to ask you to move if someone with a disability does request a room.
It''s equivalent of priority seating on an airline. So again, both those things would be very good ideas.
Operator, next question.
The next question comes from Ronald].
Hello, this is Ron. I have a couple of questions and some of them may be geared or are geared a little bit more toward engineering. In hotel rooms, I''m a person in a wheelchair, and I get to the room and I found out that the electrical outlets are a lot of times behind furniture and don''t allow me easy access for me to plug in my battery charger for my chair. Two, I was at a major chain hotel and they didn''t have a fold out bench, but they had a regular bench in the shower area. But the problem with that is that the floor was sloped so the bench didn''t sit equally on all four legs. And I found that the drain in the shower tends to be too small for the water, and normally the water will overflow that indenture in the floor and fall out into the floor, if you have any comments on those?
These are definitely issues. It''s a work in progress. And I know that when you open the door to the hotel room you never know quite what you''re going to find. One thing with electric outlets is that it is possible to have an extension cord, a heavy duty extension cord that you could use in that situation. Often the electric outlets are too low, it''s hard to reach down, you know, below 15 inches if you''re sitting in a chair. Or they are behind furniture. So that may be one of the cases where they need to move some furniture for you. In terms of the fold out bench or lack of it, they really are required to have one. It''s something that, I know hoteliers don''t really want to create unsafe situations, sometimes they just don''t realize that they are. And that includes providing benches which are really shower seats or shower stools and which would just tip over if you tried to transfer to them. So I don''t know what else to say other than that. Ron?
Well the only comment that I was going to make is that the challenge with the ADA is there is a ton of clear guidelines for accessibility and they do have specific specifications for certain things. What you find in many [inaudible] facilities in terms of hotels, and even on cruise ships is that they were built before ADA and so people made an effort to design accessibility but didn''t really have standards to go to. Then you have a lot of newer facilities that were built after ADA and a lot more thought has gone into the process. But some of the times the challenge has become is you have architects and designers and people who don''t have a disability and so what I would encourage businesses to do is to include people with disabilities as part of the building process and kind of make sure you''re not only just complying with ADA Act, you''re going and looking at it from a customer''s standpoint and having them navigate the room and saying okay, the outlet is here, and the special things they need. And the hotels are very in tune to that. That''s why they design the rooms they do. They design tables to be in certain places, beds to be in places, because they know it''s convenient for a guest. I know outlets is one of the pain points, to use a bad pun, for hotels because there never seems to be enough of them because of all the electronic devices people bring these days. So that''s a comment on that.
Thank you Operator next call?
The next question comes from Mark Torres.
Hi, we have two questions. The first is to whoever wants to answer. What do you recommend for addressing customers with chemical sensitivities or sensitivity to odors? That''s the first question.
Go ahead Ron.
Yes. We deal with this all the time, actually. We do people that have chemical sensitivities. And what we do is just that we notify the vessel. What we do is we document all of our reservations and then about two, three weeks prior to sailing we collect all that information, review it, and make sure that it''s in a format that the ships need it in. And we send that information to the ship. And the, what we do, that''s about two weeks prior to sailing. And then, about a week prior to sailing we''ll send, or two days prior to sailing we send a late additions report. This allows the information to get to the ship and let them know that we have guests with disabilities coming onboard. And chemical sensitivities is one of those things, generally what we do is, we deep clean the state room. And that is one of the things that we can do. We can''t really clean the entire ship to a certain level. But, we have cleanliness, general cleanliness standards of all of our ships and as one of our checklist standards overall guest checklist standards that we have. But, what we do is we deep clean with vinegar in the actual room itself to remove some of that. And if quests need additional details, I know we''ve occasionally had guests that need the sheets laundered in a particular process, you know, not using detergents and things like that, we can go ahead and do that. But, it''s, we don''t get that request very often, but you need to make sure you have a process in place to try to make sure that information gets conveyed to the facility correctly and make sure that the guest is reminded to, upon arrival, to restate their need just to make sure that the communication didn''t full get down to the state room or the attendant or to the maid that that information gets conveyed as well.
I have this problem myself at a low level. And, I always look for hotels with windows that open. So, I included this information in our access guides, our easy access guides from ODO. And again, I''ll ask in advance that they not spray anything in the room. I''ve also requested on numerous occasions that they, that they use that ozone machine to clean the room and get some of that out of there. And, you have to do that, of course, when the guest is not in the room. But, I''ve certainly found that that helps when the hotels do have that facility.
Okay thanks our second question.
Thank you. My name is Sandra Johnston. I have two law degrees and I''m a person with a disability. Mobility is my issue. I''m very familiar with the architectural guidelines, the architectural barrier removal title three and its applications. My primary focus in this venue would be to create an opportunity for people with disabilities because I have 25 years in the hotel industry, to have employment based on application of our standards. My suggestion might be to create a concierge specifically for accessibility standards which you would hire people with disabilities who have the most obvious knowledge of the specific and definitive application of these standards. Plus it would, it''s a marketable entity. It can create more people with disabilities coming to any particular venue whether it is land based or sea based. And, it would, it would create a wonderful opportunity for people with disabilities. As a person with mobility issues that this is one of the biggest issues in any type of venue. And, I see it everywhere in Indianapolis where I usually go to conferences, what they''ve done in bathrooms, which is really amazing, is that they''ve made the tub wider so that it can affect any person with or without a disability. And this has been wonderful for me as a person with a mobility issue. So, I have not only opportunities but questions about people who are flying on airplanes and all the other transportation issues that lead up to this where if we had a concierge that were people with disabilities that they could do the preflight, do the pre-reservation, do the legwork. And also, they could enter these venues and define whether these people need to do more or they''re ready to put the accessibility standard logo on them so that people with disabilities know that when the concierges are working on their behalf, that they have opened an opportunity for them to feel safe, to feel comfortable, and using them as kind of a go between the average human being and the hotel industry and hospitality industry. And, do you have any ideas on this concept?
This is Ron and I think that you have brought up a really great suggestion and actually it''s something that we have been testing at Royal Caribbean sort of like an access ambassador on our Royal Caribbean ships. A few of our ships have a person on our guest relations staff that''s sort of designated access ambassador. What they do is they invite all of the guests with disabilities to a meeting on the first sea day. And they kind of talk a little bit about the ship. And they kind of answer questions about accessible features of the ship. Mostly they talk little bit about shore excursion and getting on and off the ship which seems to be a lot of the questions our guests have once they get onboard. Generally, what we find, the ships tend to be very good with hardware and a lot of the accessibilities are already built in. But, people have questions about getting on and off and about shore excursions; kind of like the question we had earlier this afternoon. And that''s why we talk about the access or special needs department suggestion I did in my presentation. And that helps out people with pre-cruise situations where, you know, guests, travel agents can contact the company directly, get information about accessibility features of the property or ship if they''re planning on going to.
Thank you, operator next question.
Can I sneak in here Marian real quick with that question that was submitted by somebody using audio streaming? A quick question, they wanted to know if the ADA applies to foreign flagged cruise lines that use US ports.
And the question is, yes they do. The Supreme Court, a few years ago, ruled that not only does US flagships but flagships the ADA did apply to them when they sailed to and from the US port. They did say that the talk about internal affairs, which meant ship hardware, because usually what happens with foreign flagships, they''re usually registered in a different country like Bahamas or Malta and are subject to that country''s ship building guidelines. So, but, what happened is the, you know, the cruise industry has been working with the Access board for a number of years and Laurel with actually part of to commit PVAG Passenger Vessel Accessibility Guideline committee to create an aid act for our cruise ships because there are some things that we just can''t, you know, we can do on cruise ships, most we can do, there''s some limitations we do. So, we''re working on that. I know that it''s still under development and this is something that we''ve been working on for many years. And so, we''ve been volunteering to do that.
I just want to add that the cruise industry has been very proactive in this regard. And, even though the guidelines are not, have not yet become standards under the department of justice, cruise lines have really moved forward in this regard and, in many cases, are exceeding what we''re finding on land in terms of accessibility with that one exception, of course, of the issue of tendering and what you''re going to find in foreign ports. So, we''ve been quite happy with how the industry is reaching out to this market, actually.
Thank you. Operator, next question.
At this time I''m showing no further questions.
Peter do you have any other further questions?
I have one other question that someone using audio streaming said it. And they wanted to know, why don''t all websites of travel agencies, cruise lines, and transportation systems, display the ISA symbol on their website? That question says because it''s the most effective way to let people with disabilities know that, how to get information.
Yeah, I don''t really understand what that is. Ron?
: I apologize but with ISA standards, that''s a web accessible standard.
Really at this point, at this point basically there are only certain travel agents that are specializing in this market. So, maybe that answers the question.
I think that ISA was the international symbol of access which is.
Okay, yeah, I think that the, and as Laurel mentioned, you know, I think that there''s several issues about using the ISA symbol because one thing is that it denotes wheelchair accessibility. And, it''s universally accepted but sometimes it is misleading because if you don''t incorporate symbols for hearing or people with vision disabilities, you kind of might misdirect people saying okay we''re accessible to people with mobility disabilities or we''re just wheelchair users. And we''re not. We''re all kind, we''re accessible to everyone. We''re accessible to all people which is all of our customers. And so, I think that, you know, that''s a really great idea. That''s a really great suggestion. I mean, even though that philosophical debate about the symbol, I think it''s still a great way of showing that. And I think that some companies have done it. And I think it show awareness of people with disabilities and wanting to reach to that market.
I did, in the resources that I list I do list the graphic artist skills. They have a downloadable set of disability access symbols which you can simply go to their website and download. And that includes the hearing ear symbol and the symbol for someone, you know, using a TTY or all the other symbols in the set. I believe there are 12 symbols in all so.
Thank you. To wrap up I''d like to remind our listeners that the ADA National Network the DBTAC have a new website. That is www.adahospitality.org where lots of information, as Laurel indicated, the Department of Justice''s regulations and guidelines for accessibility, resources from all of the different hotels and restaurant organization links for Laurel''s organization as well as SATH the society for accessible travel, all kinds. It has travel agents involved, lots of wonderful resources and training tools are available for use and download. I''d like to thank both Laurel and Ron for sharing their time and their knowledge with us today. I think that everyone learned from what we heard from them today. Reminder that a digital recording of today''s session as well as a written transcript will be available for viewing or download on the www.ada-audio.org website within the next ten days. Please join us for next month''s session which is June 15th labeled Disability Statistics, what do they tell us? Andra Hootenville who is the assistant professor of economics at the University of New Hampshire will be the speaker. We encourage you to view the website and familiarize yourself with the full array of programs available during the 2008 or 2009, 2010 series. Questions regarding the ADO audio conference series can be directed to 877-232-1990 voice or TTY or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We''d like to thank you for joining us today and wish that you have a very good day. We ask that the program moderator please complete the evaluation that will be emailed to you. And with this, this concludes our session.
Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude the conference for today. Again thank you for your participation. You may all disconnect. Have a good day.