One of Secretary Ray LaHood’s top priorities at the Department of Transportation (DOT) is to make transportation more accessible for people with disabilities. Since arriving at DOT, I’ve worked closely with staff across the agency to help raise awareness and develop policies and regulations to help Secretary LaHood achieve this goal.
Just last week, Secretary LaHood announced that individuals with disabilities will have greater access to intercity, commuter and high-speed train travel as a result of a new rule requiring new station platform construction or significant renovation to enable those with disabilities to get on and off any car on a train. The disability community from across the country has cited the difficulty or inability to board a train as a major barrier to employment and travel opportunities. Through this amendment to DOT’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, people with disabilities will now have greater access to intercity, commuter and high-speed train travel. And I’m pleased to say that this new rule considers the needs of multiple DOT partners because it takes into account the critical needs of people with disabilities as well as freight railroads and operations.
I am also pleased that Secretary LaHood today announced that DOT is proposing to require that websites and kiosks be made accessible for air travelers with disabilities. Under the proposed rule, U.S. and foreign carriers would have to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities by meeting the standards for accessibility contained in the widely accepted Website Content Accessibility Guidelines.
The proposed rule would also require airlines and airports that use automated kiosks for services such as printing boarding passes and baggage tags to ensure that any kiosk ordered 60 days after the rule takes effect be accessible. Standards for accessibility would be based on standards for automated transaction machines set by the Department of Justice in its 2010 ADA rule.
As a person who does not have arms or legs, I can say the changes in rail access, and the proposed rule for accessible websites and kiosks, will increase my ability to independently travel and access the world. These rules demonstrate Secretary LaHood and DOT’s ongoing commitment to improve access to the communities and transportation. Over the next few weeks, I am looking forward to traveling to Philadelphia, Minnesota and Arizona to meet with leaders of the disability community to discuss these changes and other topics of interest to them.
Richard Devylder is Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation at the U.S. Department of Transportation.