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.
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 Department plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking based on this agreement in July 2017.
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.
The ACCESS Committee has formed working groups to address the three ACCESS Advisory Committee issues listed above. The working groups include Committee members and experts or representatives who are not Committee. Working group meetings will be held between the full, plenary meetings. Working groups are not authorized to make decisions for the Committee as a whole, but shall submit their report, including any recommendations, to the full Committee.
More information about the working groups will be available after the first plenary meeting.