Baltimore, Maryland (November 6, 2013): The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind people, today expressed severe disappointment in the Department of Transportation (DOT) for its final rule purporting to extend Air Carrier Access Act requirements to airline Web sites and automated kiosks. The long-awaited rule, released November 4 on DOT’s Web site, gives air carriers an overly generous two years to make select portions of their online services accessible to blind and otherwise disabled customers, allows three years for carriers to make their Web sites compliant, and grants carriers and airports a lavish ten years to make only a quarter of their fleet of kiosks accessible. The rule intends to update the law and improve the travel experience of disabled passengers, but it is far too weak to achieve this goal.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The Department of Transportation’s final rule on airline Web sites and kiosks falls profoundly short of its objective. Technology offers an opportunity for a mainstream, expedited experience for all travelers, but for far too long, blind people have been needlessly relegated to lengthy fare searches over the phone, higher rates for flights, and segregation in long check-in lines because airlines have failed to embrace readily available accessibility solutions for their Web sites and kiosks. After years of anticipation, we expected the rule released November 4 to be significantly stronger. Instead, the rule sets an appalling time frame of an entire decade for airlines to make only a portion of their kiosks accessible, allowing ten more years of discrimination and ten more years of missed opportunities for innovators. Access delayed is access denied, so we strongly urge the Department of Transportation to amend the rule to be consistent with the department’s original commitment to ensure equal access for disabled travelers.”