New Federal Rules Make Travel Easier for People with Disabilities

Travel is often difficult for people with disabilities. In an effort at making it easier, however, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) yesterday announced new rules to ensure equal access to air transportation for all travelers.

Part of DOT’s continuing implementation of the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, the new rules include:

• Requiring airline websites to be accessible to people with disabilities;

• Requiring automated airport kiosks — for printing boarding passes and baggage tags — to be accessible to people with disabilities;

• Requiring ticket agents to disclose and offer web-based discount fares to customers unable to use their website due to a disability; and

• Allowing airlines to choose between stowing wheelchairs in a cabin compartment on a new aircraft or strapping them a row of seats, ensuring that two manual, folding wheelchairs can be transported at a time.

Airlines have two years to make their websites accessible and 10 years to make at least 25 percent of their kiosks at every U.S. airport accessible.

“All air travelers should be treated fairly when they fly, regardless of any disabilities they may have,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “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.”

More information about the new rules is available at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2011-0177.

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