by Shaun Heasley | December 14, 2016
The U.S. Department of Transportation is planning to move forward with new regulations mandating greater accessibility for people with disabilities when they fly.
After seven months of negotiations, an advisory committee tasked with addressing accessibility issues for the Transportation Department said it has reached a consensus on how best to move forward with rules designed to improve access to in-flight lavatories and on-board entertainment.
Currently, accessible lavatories are only required on planes with more than one aisle. That can present challenges for individuals who use wheelchairs since most domestic flights involve single-aisle aircraft.
The agreement provides a roadmap for change through incremental improvements and an eventual requirement that single-aisle planes include accessible lavatories.
In addition, the ACCESS Advisory Committee — comprised of representatives from the airline industry, people with disabilities and other stakeholders — is calling for captioning and audio descriptions to be available for most in-flight entertainment and greater safety and maneuverability standards for on-board wheelchairs.
The committee was not able to reach a consensus on issues related to service animals, the Transportation Department said.
“The agreement reached by the ACCESS Advisory Committee is an important step towards ensuring that air travelers with disabilities have equal access to air transportation,” said Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
“It is unfair to expect individuals with limited mobility to refrain from using the restroom when they fly on single-aisle aircraft, particularly since single-aisle aircraft are increasingly used for longer flights. It is also unfair for passengers who are deaf or blind not to be able to enjoy the same entertainment that is available to other passengers,” Foxx said.
The Transportation Department said it will proceed with developing new regulations, with a proposal expected in July 2017.
Federal transportation officials say they are planning to propose new regulations designed to enhance accommodations for flyers with disabilities. (Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS)