USA: DOT to require airlines to make their websites and kiosks accessible to disabled travelers

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed a regulation that would require airlines to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities and ensure that their ticket agents do the same.  DOT also proposed that airlines make automated airport kiosks at U.S. airports accessible to passengers with disabilities. U.S. airports that jointly own, lease or control such kiosks with airlines would also have responsibility for ensuring the accessibility of automated airport kiosks.

Under the proposed rule, airlines would be required to make their websites accessible to persons with disabilities over a two-year period.  Websites would be required to meet the standards for accessibility contained in the widely accepted Website Content Accessibility Guidelines.  The requirement would apply to U.S. and foreign carriers with websites marketing air transportation to U.S. consumers for travel within, to or from the United States.  Small ticket agents would be exempt from the requirement to have accessible websites.

This proposal is the latest in a series of DOT rulemakings to implement the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).  In the ACAA rule issued in May 2008, DOT required carriers, among other things, to make discounts available to passengers with disabilities who cannot use inaccessible web sites and therefore must make telephone or in-person reservations. Also, if passengers with disabilities are unable to use the kiosk because it is not accessible, carriers are required to provide equivalent service, such as having an airline employee assist in operating the kiosk.  However, these provisions do not give passengers with disabilities, especially those with visual and mobility impairments, independent access to the websites and kiosks, and in this final rule the Department committed to exploring how to make websites and kiosks accessible.

The proposal is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2011-0177.

Source: DOT press release 126-11 of Sep. 19, 2011

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