Transportation – Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Conducts Survey on Airline Lavatory Accessibility

Paralyzed Veterans of America is conducting a survey to gather input for the Department of Transportation’s ACCESS Committee on barriers to the accessibility of airplane bathrooms. The purpose of the survey is to determine the impact on people with disabilities and to try to make a case for requiring accessible lavatories on single-aisle airplanes. While preliminary results are due to the committee on July 22, the survey will remain open until August 1.

The Arc Submits Comments on Cognitive Accessibility

The Arc submitted comments to the Access Board in response to a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The Access Board is proposing to revise and update both its standards for electronic and information technology for federal agencies covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and its guidelines for telecommunications equipment and services and customer premises equipment covered by the Communications Act. The Arc applauds the Access Board for proposing to replace the current product-based approach with requirements based on functionality. This approach would help keep pace with fundamental advances in technology, most notably the proliferation of devices with multifunctional capabilities, such as smartphones and tablets. However, we recommend the inclusion of specific functional performance criteria for cognitive limitations. Read our comments on The Arc’s website

Senator Harkin Introduces Bills to Promote Access to Housing, Transportation, and Exercise and Fitness Services

Last week, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced three bills as part of his “Access for All” agenda to help people with disabilities achieve economic independence and reach the middle class. The “Universal Home Design Act” (S. 2889) would seek to increase the availability of accessible housing for people with disabilities by requiring certain accessibility features for single family homes and townhouses built or purchased with federal financial assistance. The bill was referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The “Accessible Transportation for All Act” (S. 2887) would seek to expand access to accessible taxi services and ban discrimination based on disability by taxi companies and drivers. The bill was referred to the Committee on Finance. The “Exercise and Fitness for All Act” (S. 2888) would encourage exercise and fitness service providers to provide exercise and fitness equipment that is accessible to people with disabilities. The bill was referred to the Committee on Finance.

Share Your Ideas on Accessible Transportation Technology Solutions

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) is hosting a national online dialogue to explore whether developing apps or using other technological devices would be most helpful for individuals with disabilities.

The dialogue, which ends on June 6, is open to inventors, advocates, and tech-savvy citizens who wish to propose ideas to improve mobility and travel planning as well as increase visibility. To participate, visit http://nationalonlinedialoguetadt.ideascale.com/ and register to post, share, and vote on ideas. Please contact projectaction@easterseals.com or call 800-659-6428 with questions about the online dialogue.

The US Access Board Issues New Guidelines About Temporary Emergency Housing

The US Access Board issued new guidelines about temporary housing provided during emergencies.  The Access Board developed an overview of the guidelines to accompany the lengthier final rule.  Temporary housing units provided by the government in times of disaster are transportable and smaller than other types of housing.  This presents unique accessibility challenges.  The Board will hold a public briefing on the guidelines in New York City on May 15.   Although the rule becomes effective June 6, 2014, compliance will not be required until the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Justice (DOJ) update their accessibility standards.

New York City in Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for Failing to Accommodate Needs of Individuals with Disabilities

The Federal District Court in Manhattan found that New York City was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for failing to accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities before and during emergencies. A lawsuit was filed following Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The court found that the city failed to develop evacuation plans for people with disabilities who lived in high-rise buildings based on evidence that people were not able to get out of their apartments, had no water or heat, and had to wait days for help. The city’s evacuation plans relied on the mistaken notion that everyone could evacuate using stairs and inaccessible public transportation.

The Department of Transportation Issues Regulations to Airlines Requiring Them to Make Their Webpages Accessible

The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued regulations that require airlines to make their webpages that contain “core travel information and services” accessible within two years. In three years, the websites must be completely accessible. Within 10 years, at least 25 percent of kiosks at every airport must be accessible. The rules will apply to all domestic airlines and all of those who fly to and from the US. In the meantime, passengers who cannot access the current websites must be offered web-based discounts. DOT also published final rules giving airlines more flexibility about how manual wheelchairs are stowed, allowing that two manual folding wheelchairs can be transported at a time.

Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act Reintroduced in House

Rep. Jan L Schakowsky (D-IL) reintroduced the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act (H.R. 2352). The bill seeks to require new homes built with federal funds to meet certain accessibility standards – namely, a zero step entrance, at least one wheelchair accessible entrance, and wheelchair accessible doorways. In the 113th Congress the bill has been named after Eleanor Smith, the founder of Concrete Change, an international network that seeks to make all new homes “visitable,” or constructed with basic accessibility features to make it easier for people with mobility impairments to live in and visit the home. The bill was referred to the Committee on Financial Services. The Arc strongly supports this legislation.

Briefing Held on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD) held a briefing on the Hill focused on the impact of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on global commerce and international accessibility.  Each of the panelists agreed that ratification of the CRPD will create global business opportunities, especially in the realm of assistive technology. Creating accessible infrastructures is dependent upon a global exchange of knowledge on disabilities. Both people with disabilities and the U.S. economy would benefit from working together with other countries on innovative accessibility solutions.

New Guidance on Design & Construction, Service Animals

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have jointly released new guidance on design and construction requirements under the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex and familial status; it requires that multifamily housing built for first occupancy after March 1991 contain accessible features for persons with disabilities. According to HUD, “The new guidance is designed to assist design professionals, developers and builders in understanding and meeting their obligations and to assist persons with disabilities in understanding their rights regarding the ‘design and construction’ requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act.”

HUD has also issued a notice on assistance animals and reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. The notice discusses the intersection of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act with regard to assistance animals, describing housing owner’s obligations under the Fair Housing Act and when multiple nondiscrimination laws apply.