Airlines Told To Improve Accessibility
Airlines will soon be required to improve access to their websites and airport kiosks and make other changes to better accommodate travelers with disabilities under new federal regulations.
The U.S. Department of Transportation issued new rules Monday mandating that airlines make pages on their websites that contain “core travel information and services” accessible within two years. The companies’ websites must be completely accessible within three years, the agency said.
The new website rules will apply to any airline that markets domestic flights as well as those that fly to and from this country.
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Federal officials also made clear that ticket agents must offer web-based discount fares to customers with disabilities who are unable to access airline websites due to their disability. That requirement will take effect in 180 days, the Transportation Department said.
Already, airlines are required to provide equivalent services to those who are unable to use websites that are inaccessible.
Meanwhile, the new rules stipulate that at least 25 percent of the automated kiosks at each airport location — which are often used to print boarding passes or luggage tags — must be accessible to people with disabilities within 10 years, the Transportation Department said.
Airlines will also have greater flexibility in how they stow wheelchairs. Under the new regulations, manual, folding wheelchairs can be stored in a closet or may be strapped to a row of seats, an option that will allow two chairs to be transported at once. Previously, airlines were given more limited options for wheelchair storage on new aircraft.
“All air travelers should be treated fairly when they fly, regardless of any disabilities they may have,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. “These new rules build on our past work in ensuring that our air transportation system is accessible for everyone, while balancing both airlines’ and passengers’ need for flexibility.”
The new rules were announced at the same time the Department of Transportation said it fined US Airways $1.2 million for failing to provide adequate wheelchair assistance to passengers with disabilities in Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C. The fine is one of the largest the agency has ever assessed in a disability-related case.