Government easing the way for disabled air passengers

Posted Monday, Nov. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Disabled travelers should find it easier to access airline websites under new rules the government issued Monday.

Airline website pages that have core travel information and services must be accessible to the disabled within two years, the Transportation Department said, and all pages on airline websites must be readily available within three years to people with disabilities.

The new rules also require airline ticket agents to disclose and offer Web-based discount fares to customers who are unable to use their sites because of a disability. Airlines are already tequired to provide equivalent service for consumers who cannot use inaccessible websites

Airlines and airports will also have to make accessible to the disabled automated kiosks providing boarding passes and baggage, as carriers buy new equipment. If no kiosks are installed, 25 percent of the kiosks currently at each airport location must be accessible within 10 years.

Another new rule gives airlines more flexibility in how they transport manual folding wheelchairs onboard, allowing them to carry up to two wheelchairs in the cabin, the department said. In addition to being able to stow a wheelchair in a closet, airlines will be allowed to strap a second chair across a row of seats.

Closets must also have signs saying wheelchairs have priority over other baggage.

At the same time, the department announced that it fined US Airways $1.2 million for failing to provide adequate wheelchair access to passengers in Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C. It’s one of the largest penalties of its kind ever assessed by the agency in a disability case.

The department said that US Airways’ use of a combination of electric carts and wheelchairs to transport passengers between gates required frequent transfers and led to long delays. It said that some passengers missed connections because of the delays or were left unattended for long periods.

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