4 March 2005
Re: Docket No. OST-2004-19482: 14 CFR 382: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel
Dear Mr. Secretary:
As an internationally recognized public policy center organized by and for people with disabilities, the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI) seeks to increase opportunities for people with disabilities by identifying barriers to participation and promoting best practices and universal design of technology for the global community. A non-profit 501(c)(3) entity, ICDRI’s mission is to collect a global knowledge base of quality disability resources and best practices and to provide education, outreach and training based on these core resources.
ICDRI supports the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposed rulemaking to revise its regulations that implement the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986. ICDRI particularly favors the following proposed changes:
1. The requirement that airline web sites meet the federal requirements of the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards at 36 CFR Part 1194, which implements Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended;
2. The strengthening of existing requirements to refer disputes involving disability issues to a “Complaints Resolution Official;”
3. The strengthening of language requiring carriers to make sure that their contractors (including airports) meet the same requirements that apply to the carrier itself in providing services and that carriers cannot defend against DOT enforcement actions by saying that their noncompliance was the contractor’s fault; and
4. Consolidating guidance and restructuring the rule in a question-answer format for greater clarity.
ICDRI has pioneered in the accessible web arena and supports the requirement that air carrier web sites comply with the accessible web provisions of Section 508. ICDRI is proud to have collaborated with The Internet Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter and HiSoftware to produce a free educational portal and web content accessibility validator, CynthiaSays™ at www.cynthiasays.com. This effort enables web developers to post content on the web that is accessible to the widest possible audience and in compliance with technical web accessibility requirements, including Section 508.
The DOT seeks comments under Section 382.15 as to whether there should be additional or specific requirements added concerning on-line travel agencies (e.g., web sites that provide schedule and fare information and ticketing services for many air carriers). ICDRI believes that the rule should add specific requirements that on-line travel agencies must adhere to the accessibility requirements of the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards at 36 CFR Part 1194. The rule should be explicit that web sites acting as affiliates, agents or contractors for carriers (such as Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity) should be required to be accessible.
ICDRI applauds the August 2004 settlement agreement between New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and two major travel web sites, Ramada.com and Priceline.com, that requires the sites to be more accessible to individuals with visual disabilities. The DOT accessible web requirement would inform all on-line travel agencies about the need to ensure that information and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
The DOT also seeks comments under Subpart D, Accessibility of Airport Facilities, concerning the accessibility of electronic ticketing kiosks. ICDRI comments that these kiosks need to be accessible to passengers with disabilities and recommends that the final rule adopt accessibility standards found at 36 CFR 1194.25 for “self-contained closed products.” This provision would provide independent access for persons with disabilities using electronic ticketing kiosks.
ICDRI notes that the proposed rulemaking does not address issues concerning the provision of services to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals such as requirements for visual information displays or assistive listening devices in airport terminals or on aircraft, the captioning of entertainment movies on aircraft, or the captioning of television services in airport lounges. ICDRI looks forward to participating in further rulemaking concerning these issues and respectfully requests notification of such activities by DOT.
Cynthia D. Waddell, JD
(408) 691-6921 cell
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