The times they are a changing, and the Department of Transportation is determined to keep up with new technology. To that end they released some Proposed Regulations regarding accessibility at airport kiosks and airline and ticket agent websites. It’s kind of a carryover item from the May 2008 update of the Air Carrier Access Act; as the DOT didn’t feel they had enough information to rule on those items at that time. But now they do, so they’re hitting the ground running.
The proposed regulations would require airport kiosks at 382 US airports to include the same access features required of ATMS in the 2010 ADAAG update. These access features include things like Braille instructions and buttons, headphone jacks so blind passengers can receive verbal instructions and prompts, and physical access to and around the kiosks.
US and foreign airlines serving the US market, with flights in or to and from the US will also be required to make their websites accessible according to W3C guidelines. This includes items such as correctly labeled alt tags, style sheets and other programming features that make web pages easier to read for people using screen readers.
The website requirement will also apply to large ticket agents selling on-line air tickets. Small agencies — such as travel agencies with less than $3.5 million annual revenue or ticket agents with less than $7 million annual revenue — will be exempt.
Current regulations require the airlines to provide assistance at inaccessible airport kiosks, and offer web specials and discounts by phone or in person, to disabled customers who cannot access non-compliant airline websites. These regulations will remain in effect even after the new regulations are on the books.
So here’s where you come in.
The DOT will be accepting public comments about the proposed regulations until November 25, 2011, so let your voice be heard. They will certainly hear from airlines and ticket agents who oppose the new regulations, so let’s let them know that there are travelers out there who need these services. After all, it’s all about independence these days, and these regulations will increase the level of independence of many travelers.
The public comment period is now closed.