Airlines agree to increase availability of accessible airport kiosks
Americas, News, Transportation, November 20 2017
WASHINGTON: The U.S. Department of Transportation has reached agreements with Alaska Airlines/Virgin America and Spirit Airlines to expand the availability of airport kiosks that will be accessible to individuals with disabilities, according to a DOT press release. DOT also reached an agreement with All Nippon Airways (ANA) to make the airline’s mobile website accessible for individuals with disabilities.
“The Department is committed to making transportation more accessible for everyone,” said Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “These agreements will ensure greater accessibility and improve the flying experience for individuals with disabilities.”
Under DOT rules, airlines are required to ensure that any automated kiosk they install after December 12, 2016 at U.S. airports with annual enplanements of 10,000 or more is an accessible model, until at least 25 percent of the kiosks in each airport location are accessible. DOT mandates that 25 percent of kiosks must be accessible by December 12, 2023. Airlines are also required to ensure that their websites are accessible, but there is no requirement for airlines to ensure that their mobile websites are accessible.
Alaska Airlines/Virgin America, Spirit Airlines, and ANA self-reported their temporary inability to comply with these rules and offered to instead adopt measures providing greater accessibility to individuals with disabilities than required under DOT rules. The Department reached agreement with these airlines to not take enforcement action against them for their temporary noncompliance with the Department’s kiosk/website rules in return for the airlines undertaking measures to make air travel more accessible for persons with disabilities.
Under the agreement, Spirit Airlines will make at least 50 percent of its kiosks at U.S. airports accessible by December 31, 2017, almost six years before it would be required to do so under DOT rules. Alaska Airlines/Virgin America agreed to ensure that at least 50 percent of its kiosks at U.S. airports are accessible to passengers with disabilities by December 31, 2019. This is significantly more accessible kiosks than required under DOT rules at a much earlier date. In addition, under both agreements, the airlines will install only accessible kiosks in the future, so that ultimately 100 percent of the airlines’ kiosks will be accessible to passengers with disabilities. Kiosks installed at U.S. airports are used for a variety of functions, such as printing boarding passes and baggage tags, scanning passports to check-in, and canceling or rebooking tickets.
The Department’s agreement with ANA specifies that the airline’s mobile site must conform to the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) and that the airline must consult with individuals with disabilities regarding the mobile site’s accessibility and usability no later than November 2018. This agreement will increase access to individuals with disabilities as many individuals use mobile devices even more than traditional computers for web browsing.