Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel; Proposed Rule
The U.S. Department of Transportation has finally published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revise and update the Air Carrier Access Act – the law that provides access to air travel for people with disabilities. What has become all too common under the current federal administration is that executive branch agencies, such as the USDOT, are more interested in protecting business interests than in protecting the rights of people with disabilities. The 33 page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) makes a number of changes in this regulatory law that will serve to limit the ability of people with disabilities to travel by commercial aircraft. The NPRM weakens our access rights in several ways at the same time as these weaker regulations will be applied to foreign flag air carriers.
Those most harmed by the proposed rule are those with legs that do not bend (due to fusions, braces, etc.) and those with service animals. This rule proposes that people with legs that do not bend simply put their unbending leg out into the aisle. (They ignore those who have two legs that do not bend). They do not address what such people should do with their legs during take off and landing, when the FAA requires that the aisle be clear or what one does with an unbendable leg when the cabin crew rolls the beverage or food cart up the aisle. As far as service dogs are concerned, this proposed rule would require a service dog to fit in the 16 inch wide space under the seat in front of the passenger with a disability. People with guide dogs and mobility assistance dogs, all of which are too large for that small space, would no longer be able to fly on any commercial aircraft.
The deadline for submitting comments concerning this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is March 4, 2005. Hundreds have already written to the DOT (Department of Transportation) submitting their objections. “Access Now”, as an organization, will do so as well. We urge those who receive this Newsletter to individually do the same. (The DOT must address the comments it receives in the publication of a Final Rule.)
Written comments should be sent to Docket Clerk, Department of Transportation, 400 – 7th Street, SW., Room PL-401, Washington, DC 20590. For confirmation of the receipt of written comments, commenters may include a stamped, self-addressed postcard. The Docket Clerk will date-stamp the postcard and mail it back to the commenter. Commenters may also submit comments electronically. Instructions appear on the Dockets Management System (DMS) pages of the Department’s web site (http://dms.dot.gov). Click on the Comment/Submissions button. (A copy of the Proposed Rules may be found at that same web site.)
For those of you who like wine and wineries, “Access Now” has received a notice from Peachy Canyon Winery that its tasting room and bathroom are fully accessible. The proprietors would like you to know that “Persons who use mobility aids are WELCOME.” Peachy Canyon Winery is located in California’s Paso Robles region at 1480 N. Bethel Road, Templeton, CA 93446. Phones: (800) 315-7908 or (805) 237-1918; Fax: (805) 237-2248. Website: http://www.peachycanyon.com Tasting Room hours are daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.