Friday, June 10, 2005


Disabled are due
access to ships


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that foreign cruise ships that dock at U.S. ports must provide full access to handicapped people.

DISABLED rights groups and the cruise industry are both satisfied with a Supreme Court decision that requires increased access to the handicapped without requiring massive overhaul of ships' construction. The ruling also might level competition in the cruise industry between American-flagged ships and those that sail under so-called foreign flags of convenience at U.S. ports, exempting them from some U.S. regulations.

Ironically, Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., which flies the U.S. flag in the Hawaiian Islands, had sought the exemption of foreign-flagged ships from the Americans with Disabilities Act. Based in Miami and incorporated in the Bahamas under a subsidiary of a Malaysian-owned company, most of Norwegian's ships fly the Bahamian flag.

Three handicapped people sued Norwegian, claiming the physical barriers on its ships denied them access to emergency evacuation equipment and facilities such as restaurants, swimming pools and elevators. They said the company charged premiums for handicapped-accessible cabins and for crew assistance.

The court ruled that foreign-flagged ships are covered by the disabilities law, requiring them to make "reasonable modifications" and even architectural changes, but only where they are "readily available." In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy pointed out that cruises serve mainly U.S. residents and are mostly U.S. ventures.

A law authored by Senator Inouye and enacted two years ago exempts Norwegian's ships sailing in Hawaii's waters from a federal law that prohibits foreign-built ships from operating between U.S. ports, as long as they employ American crews and abide by all U.S. laws. Norwegian introduced its Pride of Aloha cruise ship last year, will add Pride of America this summer and is scheduled to home-port Pride of Hawaii here next year.

Requiring foreign-flagged vessels to abide by U.S. laws is bound to make the market more competitive. Further exemptions for foreign-built cruise ships to fly the American flag would add to the competition.


Download more sites
for Internet access


Honolulu has dropped to 73rd among the 100 largest U.S. cities in wireless Internet access.

HONOLULU has dropped sharply among America's 100 largest cities surveyed for their degree of wireless access to the Internet. Although such access by Honolulu residents has grown, other cities have progressed more rapidly. Greater efforts are needed by City Hall and private businesses to keep up with the pace of technology.

The third annual Most Unwired City study conducted by Intel Corp. ranks Honolulu 73rd, down 60 places from last year's survey. Its number of "hot spots" where computer users can tap into Wi-Fi -- wireless fidelity networks -- is 5.8 per 100,000 population, compared with an average of 9.2 for all the cities surveyed.

Hawaii's wireless access points grew from 22 to 53 in the past year, but Bert Sperling, co-author of the study and founder of the research firm Sperling's Best Place, said that growth was relatively slow. "Some places had as many as five times what they had before," he told the Star-Bulletin's Stewart Yerton.

Mayor Hannemann said in his State of the City address in February that he would encourage the development of broadband wireless connectivity in Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. Most of the effort prior to the Hannemann administration had come from the private sector in hotels, coffeehouses, restaurants and shopping malls.

National retail chains have been opening Wi-Fi spots across the mainland but have been slow to do so in Hawaii, says Nam Vu, an executive of Internet service provider ShakaNet Inc. Enterprise Honolulu, a nonprofit organization, is working with the tourism and technology industries to find ways to avoid confusion of traffic and interference.

No. 1 in the Intel study was Seattle, where hot spots have extended to entire neighborhoods, airports and ferry boats. Honolulu should follow Seattle's example by providing wireless Internet access on a ferry system planned between the harbors of Kalaeloa and Honolulu.

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