HLAA Votes to Approve Proposals by ACCESS Advisory Committee

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation (ACCESS Advisory Committee) was established to negotiate and develop a proposed rule concerning accommodations for air travelers with disabilities. The rule addresses three issues. One of them, regarding in-flight entertainment, specifically benefits those with hearing loss. (The other two pertain to accessible lavatories on new single-aisle aircraft and service animals.) On November 22, the ACCESS Advisory Committee – of which HLAA is a member – voted on and approved the proposals.

The proposals included provisions to ensure in-flight entertainment will be captioned and audio described. They also approved the formation of a Task Force to look into ways to make sure in-flight announcements are also accessible.

The recommendations will form the basis of a notice of proposed rulemaking issued by DOT. While we did not get everything we proposed (which, after all is the nature of compromise) we did move solidly ahead to ensure that air travelers with hearing loss get more captioning on their flight and with the possibility of in-flight announcements being accessible in the coming years.

According to the US Department of Transportation

The Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation (ACCESS Advisory Committee) was established to negotiate and develop a proposed rule concerning accommodations for air travelers with disabilities addressing in-flight communications, accessible lavatory on new single-aisle aircraft, and service animals.

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The ACCESS Advisory Committee has reached an agreement to improve the accessibility of lavatories on single-aisle aircraft and of in-flight entertainment.

Today, passengers who use wheelchairs cannot access a lavatory on single aisle aircraft and often must avoid flying or dehydrate themselves to avoid having to relieve themselves during flight. Under the agreement, there would be short term and long term measures taken to fully address the challenges persons with mobility impairments face when traveling on single aisle aircraft with inaccessible lavatories, eventually resulting in accessible lavatories in the future for individuals who use wheelchairs.

Also airlines today generally do not provide in-flight entertainment with captioning or audio descriptions. Under this agreement, certain movies and shows would be displayed on such aircraft with captioning to provide access to deaf and hard of hearing passengers. Also, audio described entertainment would be available to enable people who are blind to listen to the visual narration of movies and shows. Airlines would be permitted to display content that is not closed captioned or audio-described only if non-captioned or described versions are not available from the airline’s content provider.

The Committee was not able to reach agreement on service animals, the other issue, that it had been charged with negotiating.  The Department intends to draft its own rules on service animals.

You can find more information on the DOT website.

To file a complaint, visit https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer