Special Needs

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Can Traveling Be Made Easier for Athletes with Disabilities?

11 Jan, 2017

By: Michael Popke

If you’re planning an event for athletes with disabilities, you (obviously) must provide plenty of accessibility — in restrooms, hotels and venues. But what about the planes those travelers use to reach your destination?

In December, an advisory group to the U.S. Department of Transportation reached an agreement to improve lavatory access for disabled passengers on single-aisle commercial airplanes. The group is called the ACCESS Advisory Committee, comprised of a DOT official and representatives of airlines, flight attendants, aircraft manufacturers and individuals with disabilities.

DOT officials plan to begin the formal rulemaking process for the proposals in July. As Travel Weekly reports:

… Beginning with aircraft delivered three years after the rule takes effect, airlines would have to take limited measures to ease bathroom use by the disabled. Such measures would include the installation of pull-up handles and the sizing of toilets to be between 17 and 19 inches high.

Only a full 20 years after the rule is finalized would new single-aisle planes be required to have wheelchair-accessible lavatories equivalent to those found on wide-body aircraft.

The move follows the introduction last year of AirAccess30, a website named in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which prohibited discriminatory practices in air travel against people with disabilities. The site, launched by the Paralyzed Veterans of America, allows individuals with disabilities to share their air travel experiences.

Despite progress, travelers with disabilities say they continue to encounter significant barriers in air travel, such as damaged assistive devices, inaccessible lavatories, and in-flight entertainment and delayed assistance.

On a related note, the Access Advisory Committee has “recommended that [airline] carriers be required to offer in-flight entertainment in closed-captioned and audio-described versions to facilitate enjoyment by deaf and blind passengers,” Travel Weekly reports. “The provision would apply to all entertainment systems on new aircraft, as well as systems installed on a carrier’s existing planes beginning with the effective date of the rule.”

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