DOT Announces Two New Air Carrier Access Act Rules and Issues $1.2 Million Fine For Inadequate Wheelchair Assistance
From US Department of Transportation (DOT), 11/4/2013
The US Department of Transportation announced today two new rules to make flying easier for passengers with disabilities. It also fined US Airways $1.2 million for failing to provide adequate wheelchair assistance to passengers in Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C.
One rule requires airline websites and automated airport kiosks to be accessible to passengers with disabilities. Under the new websites-and-kiosks rule, covered airlines are required within two years to make pages of their websites that contain core travel information and services accessible to persons with disabilities, and to make all of their web pages accessible within three years. Also, any automated kiosks installed at U.S. airports for services — such as printing boarding passes and baggage tags –must be accessible to passengers with disabilities until at least 25 percent of all kiosks at each airport location are accessible. The rule on accessible websites and kiosks is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2011-0177. It is also available at http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/aviation-rules.
A separate rule provides airlines with more flexibility in how they transport manual, folding wheelchairs onboard, making it possible for them to carry up to two wheelchairs in the cabin. DOT’s wheelchair rule provides airlines with more flexibility because it permits airlines to transport passenger wheelchairs by strapping them across a row of seats using a strap kit that complies with applicable safety standards, in addition to stowing them in a closet or similar compartment. If an airline chooses to use the seat-strapping method to stow a wheelchair, it must transport two wheelchairs in the cabin if requested unless stowing the second wheelchair would displace other passengers. If an airline chooses to use a closet to stow a wheelchair, then it will still be required to stow only one wheelchair in the cabin. However, in this case it must install a sign or placard prominently on the closet indicating that a wheelchair and other assistive devices are to be stowed in this area with priority over other items brought onto the aircraft by other passengers or crew, including crew luggage. The final rule on seat-strapping of wheelchairs is available on the Internet atwww.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2011-0098. It is also available at http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/aviation-rules.
As for the order against US Airways, in one of its periodic reviews of airline compliance with DOT rules, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that US Airways committed a significant number of violations of the requirements for wheelchair assistance during 2011 and 2012 at Philadelphia International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport. As a result, US Airways was fined $1.2 million for failing to provide adequate wheelchair assistance to passengers in Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C. The fine is one of the largest ever assessed by DOT in a disability case. The order is posted on regulations.gov athttp://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=DOT-OST-2013-0004-0033.
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