DOT Proposes Accessibility Rule on Kiosks and Websites

Soon to be published in the Federal Register is a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) from the Department of Transportation (DOT) requiring airport and airline automated kiosks and airline websites to be accessible to passengers with disabilities (such as, passengers who are blind or have low vision). 

Regarding air carrier and ticket seller websites, DOT is proposing that all U.S. air carriers and foreign air carriers servicing the U.S. must ensure that these websites conform to the “Website Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Success Criteria” and all Conformance Requirements at Level A and Level AA developed by the World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative (http://www.w3.org).  Within one year after the effective date of the final rule, the core air travel services and information (that is, booking or changing a reservation, checking-in, and accessing a personal travel itinerary, flight status, personal frequent flyer account, flight schedules, or the carrier’s contact information) would have to be conformant.  The remaining pages on a carrier’s primary Web site must be conformant within two years.  During the interim period, carriers must continue to make discounted Web-based fares and other Web-based amenities available to passengers who self-identify as being unable to use a carrier’s inaccessible Web site due to their disability.  However, DOT decided against proposing a requirement for carriers to provide a Web site function allowing passengers to add special service requests for disability accommodations to their passenger record.  DOT considers the marketing of air transportation by air carriers and ticket agents on Web sites that are inaccessible to individuals with disabilities to be discriminatory and an unfair trade practice. 

As for automated ticketing kiosks at U.S. airports having 10,000 or more yearly enplanements, DOT is proposing that U.S. and foreign air carriers must ensure that all kiosk orders initiated 60 days after the effective date of the rule must meet the accessibility standard provided in DOJ’s 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design applicable to automated teller machines and fare machines and other accessibility criteria described in the SNPRM. These technical criteria address accessibility for individuals with visual, mobility, tactile, and hearing disabilities.  DOT proposes to apply this standard to both proprietary and shared-use kiosks.  For passengers with a disability who are unable to use the kiosks, DOT will continue to require the carriers to ensure equivalent service (e.g., permitting the passenger to go to the front of the line at the ticket counter or to provide airline personnel to assist with the kiosk).  For joint use kiosks that carriers own, lease, or control with the airport operator, carriers and airport operators must enter an agreement allocating responsibility for meeting the accessibility criteria.

DOT is proposing this rule pursuant to the Air Carrier Access Act for the air carriers and pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for the airport operators.  Comments on the proposed rule are due within 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.