Today we are joined by Cristiano Conte. Cristiano is passionate about the positive impact ADA design can have on guest experience. Today, he sat down with us to share what inspired him to this passion, what he thinks some of the most common ADA design mistakes are and how he hopes the cruise ship interiors design industry will innovate to create accessible design for all.

Hello! Thank you for speaking to us today. For any readers who don’t know, please introduce yourself:

I’m Cristiano Conte and my career began in 1998 in Fincantieri Marghera as a cabin supervisor. Now, I’m a Carnival Corporation Hotel Inspector.

My job is verifying the quality of the products shown to me by the yard supervisors and contractors. I run two types of inspections. The first is technical, to verify systems are in place, insulation is up to specification, etc. The second is preliminary and final furniture, in order to verify the details, colours, materials, quality, functionality cleaning, and more. The technical specifications we follow include Solas and ADA.

I am passionate about ADA because I am inspired by my hometown. I come from a small town where an amazing group of people organized activities for disabled residents, and this has remained with me throughout my career.

It seems like ADA is a big topic of conversation at the moment. Why is now the right time for cruise lines to start looking at accessible design?

ADA was introduced in ship building more than fifteen years ago, and it remains important today.

For shipbuilding, now is the perfect moment to improve ADA knowledge. People in the business understand that inclusion is better than exclusion, and we have all the right tools to do our best.

The world is changing and we can make it liveable for all. I feel the same about green culture, energy and food.

What are some key misunderstandings surrounding the topic of ADA?

The most common misunderstanding is that people assume they can create a one-size-fits-all approach to designing for a spectrum of disabilities. A contractor might say, ’adding or removing 10 mm won’t be a problem’, when in fact that can impact a guest’s interaction with the design. Sometimes, we think ADA design is intended only for wheelchair users, but it should take a full spectrum of disabilities into account.

Now those working in shipbuilding are creating something perfect for a person who wants to take their own journey alone, supported by our design.

We have designed a range of cabins that include semi ADA and full ADA, to accommodate many different guests and to be able to give the thrill of the cruise to everyone.

Luckily, the ADA regulations are easy to follow, but we need to do more to improve the small details. Classic issues in the cabins include:

  • Too many steps
  • Too tall desks and sideboards
  • Wardrobe useability
  • Ramp slope degree
  • Limited space for wheelchair manoeuvrability
  • No pull cord call alarm in the shower area
  • Razor socket too close to faucet (impossible to open with ip44 cover)
  • Shower walls are short of the 915 or 760 mm minimum
  • Grab bar the wrong distance from wall
  • Automatic main door closes too quickly

However, it would be necessary to standardise the ADA rules in order to avoid these common mistakes. You could, for example, mandate only the use of millimetres instead of inches across all measurements.

Universal Design is all about being forward-thinking and creating an excellent, accessible guest experience. Can you tell us what role, in your opinion, Universal Design has to play in the ADA of the future?

Now is the right time for Universal design. We have to create something innovative for both guest and owner. One challenge is the cost is creating something new, that is comfortable, has the right functionality and is durable.

There needs to be a drive to use recyclable materials, avoid harmful emissions and utilise green energy. We should use modern technology but have a view as return to the past, that is, not to be afraid of change, but to experience something exceptional paying attention to the mistakes made in the past, but without compromising between politics and ruthless business.

Do you have any recommendations for anyone in the cruise interiors supply chain, from supplier to outfitter to designer, looking to make ADA a part of their work?

I would like to see, for example, voice or movement-controlled fixtures within cabins or the possibility that the owner provides guests with a wheelchair fitted with an alarm and other useful technologies to ensure a safe trip and experience. It is important to establish honest communication with our future guests, including those with disabilities, and learn their perspectives and how they would like us to address their barriers and needs.