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DOT Explores Consensus-Based Initiative to Make Flying Easier for Individuals with Disabilities

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced that the Department has hired a neutral convenor to consider the feasibility of a negotiated rulemaking to develop additional rules to ensure equal access to air transportation for air travelers. 

Specifically, the Department is exploring a negotiated rulemaking to:

  • ensure that the same in-flight entertainment (IFE) available to all passengers is accessible to passengers with disabilities;
  • provide individuals dependent on in-flight medical oxygen greater access to air travel consistent with Federal safety and security requirements;
  • determine the appropriate definition of a service animal;
  • establish safeguards to reduce the likelihood that passengers wishing to travel with their pets will be able to falsely claim that their pets are service animals;
  • address the feasibility of accessible lavatories on new single aisle aircraft;
  • address whether premium economy is a different class of service from standard economy as airlines are required to provide seating accommodations to passengers with disabilities within the same class of service; and
  • require airlines to report annually to the Department the number of requests for disability assistance they receive and the time period within which wheelchair assistance is provided to passengers with disabilities.

“I am committed to ensuring that our air transportation system is accessible for everyone, and it is important that people with disabilities be at the table every step of the way, collaborating with airlines and other interested stakeholders in crafting rules that will improve air travel accessibility now and into the future,” said Secretary Foxx.

Under the Negotiated Rulemaking Act, a neutral convenor assists an agency in determining whether to proceed with a regulatory negotiation, and, if so, to determine the scope of the issues that are appropriate for a negotiated rulemaking process.  The Department hired Richard Parker from the University of Connecticut School of Law to assist it in making this determination.

Should the Department decide to proceed with a negotiated rulemaking, it will invite interested parties likely to be significantly affected by the regulation to work with each other and the agency on an advisory committee to reach consensus recommendations on the appropriate resolution of the issues before the committee.  If a consensus is reached, the Department will issue a proposed rule consistent with that consensus for public comment under established rulemaking procedures.