On October 3, the Senate approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 by a vote of 93-6. This bill includes numerous provisions that benefit people with disabilities, including required training for Transportation Security Administration officers on working with passengers with disabilities, increased civil penalties for bodily harm to a passenger with a disability or damage to wheelchairs or other mobility aids, a new Advisory Committee on Air Travel Needs of Passengers with Disabilities, and a study of potential in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems that will allow passengers to remain in their wheelchairs during flight. The bill now heads to the President’s desk.
On September 22, leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure, and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committees announced a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. The bill includes a section on improving air travel for people with disabilities and requires Transportation Security Administration officer training to include training on working with passengers with disabilities. The current FAA authorization expires on September 30, so Committee leaders hope to achieve final passage this week.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has released an Interim Statement of Enforcement Office Priorities and Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding regulations of service animals under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). DOT will now prioritize enforcement cases involving dogs, cats, and miniature horses over cases involving other animals. Additional priorities include the general prohibition on advance notice; a requirement that identification cards, other written documentation, presence of a harness, tags, or the credible verbal assurance of a passenger be accepted as proof of that an animal is a service animal; and the prohibition on requiring passengers with service animal to check-in at the counter.
DOT is seeking public comment to help ensure that individuals with disabilities can continue using their service animals while also helping to ensure that the fraudulent use of other animals not qualified as service animals is deterred and animals that are not trained to behave properly in public are not accepted for transport as service animals. The ANPRM contains ten questions covering topics such as psychiatric service and emotional support animals, the number of animals allowed per passenger, leash and harness requirements, and allowable documentation requirements. Public comment on the ANPRM is due by June 9. Click here to comment.
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has introduced the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act (S.1318) along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Ed Markey (D-MA). This bill will strengthen the Air Carrier Access Act by providing a private right of action and increasing civil penalties for injury of a passenger with a disability or damage of a wheelchair or other mobility device. Additionally, it requires a study of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems that would allow individuals to sit in their wheelchairs during a flight and to put forward guidelines based on those findings. The Arc supports this legislation.
On January 24, the Senate confirmed Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao with a vote of 93-6. The Department of Transportation’s mission is to “Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.“
On January 24, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee voted unanimously to recommend the full Senate confirm Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation. The Department of Transportation’s mission is to “Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to view archived video of the hearing.
On January 11, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Technology Committee will a hearing on the nomination of Elaine Chao to be the Secretary of the Department of Transportation. The Department’s mission is to “Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video the day of the hearing.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a final rule requiring all new hybrid or electric vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less make an audible noise when traveling at speeds up to 19 miles per hour. The purpose of the rule is to ensure that pedestrians, especially those who are blind or have low vision, are aware of vehicles as they approach. When a vehicle travels above 19 miles per hour it will make enough noise to be heard. With some phase-in, full compliance is required by September 1, 2019.
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 Department of Transportation announced that it would create the Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation (ACCESS Advisory Committee). The ACCESS Advisory Committee is comprised of representatives from the disability community, airline industry and other stakeholders who will negotiate and develop a proposed rule concerning accommodations for air travelers with disabilities. The issues to be addressed are inflight entertainment, accessible lavatory on new single-aisle aircraft and service animals. The Committee will meet for the next six months to see if it can come to consensus on new rules addressing these issues.