Access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs

From the U.S. Access Board

Study Initiated on Equipping Passenger Aircraft with Wheelchair Restraint Systems

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board is undertaking a study that has the potential to advance access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs. As directed by Congress, this project will assess the feasibility of equipping passenger planes with restraint systems so that passengers can remain in their wheelchairs on flights. Having to transfer out of wheelchairs makes air travel very difficult, if not impossible, for many people with disabilities.

The Board is conducting this study through the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board (TRB). TRB has organized a committee of experts to evaluate the feasibility of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems. Members include experts in aircraft interiors and safety engineering, accessibility, wheelchair design and crashworthiness, airline operations, and other disciplines. Committee members will evaluate the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with locking or tiedown mechanisms for non-motorized and motorized wheelchairs used as seats. If such restraint systems are found to be feasible, the committee will then assess the wheelchair restraint systems that can be used to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs through all phases of flight, from boarding to deplaning.

The committee will hold its first meeting February 5 – 6, 2020 at the Access Board’s conference center. Most sessions will be open to the public and available by web conference. Those attending in person do not need to register in advance, but registration is required (free) to attend online.

Visit TRB’s website for further information on this project, the meeting agenda, and the committee.

Questions about the study can be directed to Mario Damiani of the Access Board at damiani@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0050 (v), or (202) 272-0066 (TTY). Inquiries about attending the committee meeting or registering for the web conference should be addressed to Anusha Jayasinghe of TRB at AJayasinghe@nas.edu or (202) 334-2401

 

U.S. Access Board Webinars on ADA and ABA Standards

Woman using accessible elevatorStarting in the new year, the U.S. Access Board will devote its monthly webinar series to a chapter-by-chapter review of the ADA Standards. These standards govern the construction and alteration of a wide range of facilities covered by the ADA. The sessions will also cover similar standards that apply under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) to facilities that are federally funded. Presenters will focus on common sources of confusion in the ADA and ABA Standards and frequently asked questions.

The first session in this year-long program will take place January 9 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will cover application of the standards (Chapter 1). Presenters will explain how the ADA and ABA Standards apply in new construction, alterations, and additions, dimensions for adults and children, equivalent facilitation and modifications or waivers, construction tolerances and other conventions, referenced standards, and definitions.

Visit accessibilityonline.org for more information or to register for this session.

Questions may be submitted in advance of the session (total limited to 25) or can be posed during the live webinar.

Over the course of the year, this review will also cover:

  • February 6, 2020 – Chapter 2: Scoping – New Construction
  • March 5, 2020 – Chapter 2: Scoping – Alterations
  • April 2, 2020 – Chapter 3: Building Blocks
  • May 7, 2020 – Chapter 4: Accessible Routes
  • June 4, 2020 – Chapter 5: General Site and Building Elements
  • July 2, 2020 – Chapter 6: Plumbing Elements and Facilities
  • August 6, 2020 – Chapter 7: Communication Elements and Features
  • September 3, 2020 – Chapter 8: Special Rooms, Spaces, and Elements (Part 1)
  • October 1, 2020 – Chapter 8: Special Rooms, Spaces, and Elements (Part 2)
  • November 5, 2020 – Chapter 9: Built-In Elements
  • December 3, 2020 – Chapter 10: Recreation Facilities

The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site.

Photo Credit: Public domain image from Pixnio

US Access Board Webinar – Accessible Rest Rooms

From the US Access Board:

U.S. Access Board Webinars: Accessible Toilet Rooms (Oct. 3) and Bathing Facilities (Oct. 24)

US Access Board logoMost technical questions that come up in using the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards concern toilet and bathrooms. In October, the U.S. Access Board will conduct two webinars on accessible toilet and bathing facilities.

The first webinar will take place October 3 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will clarify common sources of confusion and frequently asked questions about accessible toilet rooms. Presenters will review requirements for toilets and toilet compartments, urinals, lavatories and mirrors, doors, turning space, dispensers, and amenities such as baby-changing tables. They will explain how these provisions apply and interrelate in designing single-user and multi-user toilet rooms in compliance with the standards.

It will be followed by a webinar on October 24 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) that will explain and clarify requirements for bathing facilities in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards. This session will address common questions and sources of confusion concerning transfer showers, roll-in-showers, and bathtubs. Presenters will review components of accessible bathing fixtures, including grab bars, shower and tub seats, shower spray units and controls, and clearances. They will show how these requirements and other provisions in the standards apply and come together in the design of accessible bathing facilities.

For more information or to register for both or either session, visit accessibilityonline.org

Questions can be submitted in advance of the sessions (total limited to 25 each) or can be posed during the live webinars. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits. The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site.

Humanware: Braillant BI 40 refreshable braille display

Mainebiz mag discusses Accessibility

This week’s Mainebiz, a statewide magazine for Maine’s business community, published an article, How to make your website accessible to everyone written by two attorneys from law firm Brann & Isaacson in Lewiston.

The article minimally notes the merits of web accessibility and perhaps over-emphasizes the legal perils, focusing on the fact that  “…in recent years, thousands of ADA lawsuits have been filed alleging website inaccessibility — more than 2,000 such federal suits were filed last year.”

The article is short on providing any real guidance to Maine business owners, so we took the opportunity to add a comment to the article noting the significant free resources Maine CITE makes available on the topics of Accessible Web Design and Accessible Digital Documents.

The article briefly mentions how “…it (accessibility) should increase sales…” when in fact, accessible websites provides opportunities for more customers, perhaps millions of customers worldwide, to readily access the products and services of Maine businesses.

Free resources for Web Accessibility may be found here on the Maine CITE website…

Free resources for Accessible Digital Documents may be found here on the Maine CITE website…

Public Comment Wanted: Guidelines for Onboard Wheelchairs

U.S. Access Board Releases Voluntary Guidelines for Onboard Wheelchairs for Public Comment

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board has released for public comment, advisory guidelines for wheelchairs used on commercial passenger aircraft during flight. These onboard wheelchairs are provided by air carriers as a means of facilitating the transfer of passengers with disabilities to aircraft lavatories since personal wheelchairs cannot be used in the cabin. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has expressed its intention to supplement its regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to include performance standards for onboard wheelchairs on covered aircraft. The Board is developing these non-binding guidelines as technical assistance to air carriers and manufacturers of onboard wheelchairs by providing an example of how to meet DOT’s planned performance standards.

As indicated in a notice published in the Federal Register, the guidelines specify dimensions, features, and capabilities for onboard wheelchairs that will allow passengers with disabilities to be more safely and comfortably transported aboard airplanes in flight. In addition, the guidelines include criteria to allow the onboard wheelchair to fully enter the lavatory in a backward orientation and be positioned over a closed toilet, and for the lavatory door to be closed. This feature would afford those passengers who cannot independently transfer to the toilet to have privacy in performing non-toileting tasks related to personal hygiene or medical needs. The Board has posed a number of questions to the public about specific provisions in the guidelines but welcomes input on all portions of the document.

As part of a negotiated rulemaking to improve access for air travelers with disabilities, DOT has put forth plans to supplement its ACAA regulations and require onboard wheelchairs with enhanced functionality on aircraft with more than 125 passenger seats.

Related information, including instructions for submitting comments, is posted at www.regulations.gov (Docket ATBCB-2019-0002).

Comments are due October 21, 2019. In addition, on September 12, 2019, the Board will hold a public hearing that will provide an opportunity to submit comments either in person or by phone. Further details will be posted on the Board’s website.

Those who wish to provide testimony at the hearing should contact Rose Marie Bunales at (202) 272-0006 (voice) or bunales@access-board.gov by September 5, 2019.

For further details on the guidelines or the public hearing, contact Wendy Marshall at (202) 272-0043 (voice) or marshall@access-board.gov, or Mario Damiani at (202) 272-0050 (voice) or damiani@access-board.gov.

Public Hearing on Advisory Guidelines for Aircraft Onboard Wheelchairs  
September 12, 2019, 9:30 – 4:00 (ET)
Remote attendance options will be posted soon
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.

Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.

Service Animal Resource Hub

Man in wheelchair with dogThe ADA National Network has created a Service Animal Resource Hub that many of you may find helpful. All of the information provided is specific to either the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or other federal laws.  Some states may have laws the expand the definition of a service animal and the rights of individuals with disabilities.

Multiple related resources can be found at Service Animal Resource Hub website…

 

Updated VPAT Now Available from the IT Industry Council

US Access Board logoFrom the US Access Board:

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) maintains a free reporting tool known as the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) to help determine whether information and communication technology products and services satisfy accessibility requirements, including the Section 508 Standards. ITI recently released revised editions of the VPAT (2.3) based on the Board’s revised 508 Standards (VPAT 2.3 508), including the referenced Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). It also offers VPATs for WCAG 2.1 (VPAT 2.3 WCAG), the European Union’s ICT requirements (VPAT 2.3 EU), and another based on all three (VPAT 2.3 INT).

Visit the ITI’s website for further information or send a message to info@itic.org.

New law promises to make federal websites more accessible

From the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT):

The Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA)

US Capitol DomeThe year 2018 closed with the passage of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (21C-IDEA) in December, which promises to make federal websites more accessible, user friendly, and secure.

This new law requires federal agencies to modernize the websites and digital services they offer, according to eight specific criteria, including accessibility for people with disabilities. All federal agencies in the Executive Branch must already meet the accessibility standards of Rehabilitation Act Section 508, as codified in the Section 508 Rule published by the U.S. Access Board.  However, 21C-IDEA is noteworthy for several reasons, including its emphasis on increasing agencies’ compliance with Section 508.

Within 180 days of the law’s passage, all new and redesigned federal websites must comply with the new criteria, and agencies must submit plans to Congress for how they will accelerate the use of electronic signatures.

21C-IDEA also requires federal chief information officers (CIOs) to coordinate with other executives and ensure that departments plan adequate funding and resources to execute these requirements.

The provisions include several significant requirements to make federal websites more user friendly, usable, and robust for all users, including a requirement that digital formats of all paper-based forms be available within two years. Under the requirements of 21C-IDEA, federal websites must:

  • provide a customized digital experience to individual users
  • maintain a consistent appearance
  • be fully functional and usable on common mobile devices
  • use an industry-standard secure connection
  • contain a search function that allows users to easily search content intended for public use

These user-friendly requirements overlap substantially with principles of Universal Design, and their use by federal agencies should help make federal websites easier to use for everyone, including people with disabilities.

 

Reaching Accessibility Goals for Higher Education

Accessible Information TechnologyA new article in Inside Higher Ed magazine Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals details the fact that many institutions of higher education fail to have “coherent policies around accessibility. ” And, they note that there has been “…a recent uptick in high-profile lawsuits alleging failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act…”

While the reasons for this situation are many, the article suggests “time constraints” make be a factor. Quoting Cynthia Curry from the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM)“Part of the problem is that people don’t have the time to do something systemic around accessibility within their institutions…” Curry said. “Most institutions, of course, aren’t looking proactively at accessibility. They’re looking at it more as a retrofit, or they’re being reactive if something litigious comes up.”

Maine CITE’s own resident digital accessibility resource person is John Brandt. Brandt’s own 25-year experience in web development and accessibility suggest that the perceived high cost to make web content accessible is probably the largest single factor in the equation. “Most organizations look at accessibility as expensive because they are approaching it from a mitigation perspective. They often fail to look at the costs associated with NOT having accessible content – lost student admissions, lack of student retention, etc.”

While most web accessibility experts will talk about the importance of “adding accessibility in at the beginning” of a web design process, colleges and universities are often not able to do this since they were among the first organizations to have websites in the 1990s – they have accumulated lots of content.

But even if an institution is committed to improving accessibility, they often don’t know where to start. To that end, the Inside Higher Education article promotes a new set of quality indicators for accessible educational materials developed by NC-AEM designed to “help institutions ensure, at scale, that all students have the same learning opportunities in face-to-face classrooms and digital learning environments.” The article focuses on the NC-AEM’s recently published  “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies” which promote seven quality indicators (QI), each containing specific criteria needed to achieve each QI.

For colleges and universities just starting out with the process, these quality indicators can provide a blueprint and structure of the thinking process that need to be considered. Tom Tobin, one of the people interviewed in the article, encourages “institutions (to) focus accessibility efforts on the potential impact on student access and learning outcomes, rather than merely on ‘legal-compliance arguments.’”

“While the description of the quality indicators alludes to the broad access benefits for all learners when accessible materials, tools and interface are adopted, the actual indicators and critical components are focused squarely on meeting the needs of learners with disabilities — only a part of the access conversation,” Tobin states in the article.

Read “Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals”

Read/view the NC-AEM – “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies”

Access Board Issues Correction to ICT Refresh Final Rule

US Access Board logoFrom the US Access Board:

On January 22, the Access Board issued a correction to its updated accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) to restore provisions on TTY access that were inadvertently omitted. The action applies to the final rule the Board published last January to jointly refresh its Rehabilitation Act (Section 508) standards for ICT in the federal sector and its Communications Act (Section 255) guidelines for telecommunications equipment.

The original Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines required that devices with two-way voice communication support use of TTY devices which provide text communication across phone connections for persons with hearing or speech impairments. In its ICT refresh, the Board had proposed replacing this provision with a requirement for real-time text (RTT) functionality, a new technology with significant advantages over TTYs. RTT transmits text in virtual real-time as each character is typed, whereas TTY messages can only be sent individually in sequence. Also, RRT technology is directly compatible with wireless and Internet protocol (IP) based networks.

In finalizing its rule, however, the Board chose to reserve the RTT requirement because the Federal Communications Commission had initiated its own rulemaking to address RTT functionality over TTY compatibility in IP-based telecommunication environments. In doing so, the Board intended to add the original TTY provision back into the rule, but the necessary language was unintentionally left out. The recent correction restores the TTY requirement with minor editorial changes for consistency with the new format and terminology of the updated requirements (Section 412.8). It also corrects a couple typographical errors in other sections of the rule. The corrections become effective March 23, 2018 without further action unless adverse comments are received.

For further information, visit the Board’s website or contact Timothy Creagan at (202) 272-0016 (v), (202) 272-0074 (TTY) or Bruce Bailey at (202) 272-0024 (v), (202) 272-0070 (TTY); email: 508@access-board.gov