First meeting for the DOT Regulations Negotiation Access Committee used to address key issues
The Department of Transportation (DOT) Regulations Negotiation (Reg-Neg) Access Committee held its first meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 17 and 18. The first day was dedicated to understanding and agreeing to the rules governing how the 25-member Access Committee will operate. Subcommittees were formed to address whether or not to change the definition of a service animal, including emotional support animal; how to provide in-flight entertainment or communication; and whether it is feasible for new single aisle aircraft to provide an accessible lavatory.
Each subcommittee has formed working groups made up of Access Committee members and other interested parties to begin addressing the complex issues from the point of view of the airlines, airplane manufacturers, and disability rights activists. Each working group has 3 co-chairs representing the three points of view. Lee Page, Paralyzed Veterans of America Senior Associate Advocacy Director, was named co-chair of the working group discussing accessible lavatories. They are currently working on a brief survey of stakeholders and passengers with disabilities to help the Access Committee develop the definition of what would properly reflect an “accessible lavatory” for a single aisle aircraft. All of the working groups will meet by conference calls over the next six months and report back to the Access Committee during each monthly meeting through October 2016.
After the “rules of procedure” were established, the Committee received presentations on each of the three main focus areas. The Department of Justice (DOJ) discussed definition of a service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), versus the definition considered under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). DOJ defines a service animal as a “dog or in some cases a small horse,” and it does not recognize emotional support animals. Boeing and Airbus provided presentations on what is currently available on the market for an accessible lavatory on board aircraft. Accessible lavatories are mainly used in twin aisle (wide body) aircraft, as required by the ACAA. Finally, the National Center for Accessible Media discussed in-flight entertainment and communications for people with disabilities.