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Disability Advocates Outraged Over Statue of Liberty Ferry Accessibility

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One organization is alleging that Lady Liberty is not accessible for all people.

The United Spinal Association, a disability advocate organization on behalf of people living with spinal cord injuries and disorders, is accusing Statue Cruises, the company that ferries tourists to Liberty Island and Ellis Island in New York City, of failing to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The organization has called the ferries “a nightmare for people in wheelchairs,” the New York Daily News reported.

Jim Weisman, president of the United Spinal Association, wrote a letter to the National Park Service, which gave Statue Cruises the contract to operate ferry services in 2008. In it, Weisman calls the accommodations “dangerous and inaccessible,” citing the “unlawful” incline of gangplanks, unstable platforms and inaccessible rest rooms, among other violations.

There are nearly 890,000 people with disabilities living in New York City, according to the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York. That’s not to mention the many tourists with accommodation needs who may visit from out of town or other countries.

“Something like the Statue of Liberty that’s the symbol of the country has to be accessible to everyone,” Weisman told the New York Daily News.

The United Spinal Association took video of a wheelchair-using staffer named David Heard attempting to use the ferry with many difficulties, including being unable to fit inside the restroom stalls on the boat.

See the video below: 



Mike Burke, Statue Cruises’ chief operating officer, gave The Mighty a statement saying the company’s boats comply with all government regulations and claims this is the first complaint about accessibility the ferry service has heard in the eight years it’s been running.

“We comply with all governmental rules and regulations regarding our vessels,” Burke told The Mighty, “and we serve all passengers in a professional, courteous and respectful manner.”

The Mighty reached out to Statue Cruises and The United Spinal Association for further comment but has yet to hear back. 


Originally published: January 4, 2016
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