In the last six months we have worked with several airlines to meet the Department of Transport Rule regarding Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Accessibility of Web Sites and Automated Kiosks at US Airports. This requires that all:
U.S. and foreign air carriers that operate at least one aircraft having a seating capacity of more than 60 passengers, and own or control a primary Web site that markets air transportation to consumers in the United States … must make their web pages providing core travel information and services accessible to persons with disabilities.
This requirement comes into effect on December 12, 2015. The DOT Rule requires compliance with WCAG2, Level AA.
Other accessibility requirements specified by DOT
The Department of Transport Rule required much more than just WCAG2, Level AA compliance. It also required:
- User testing be conducted with people with disabilities (vision, auditory, tactile and cognitive disabilities); and
- A specific form be included as part of the booking engine for users to require assistance at the airport.
We often found that these requirements were an afterthought for the airlines trying to meet DOT compliance. One airline argued that it would be sufficient to test the booking process with one staff member with a disability only!
Special Assistance form
Two of the airlines we worked with already allowed users to specify that they needed assistance due to vision or physical impairments, however the DOT Rule requires that airlines provide a way for users to request:
- Wheelchair assistance;
- Seating accommodations;
- Escort assistance for vision impaired customers; and
- Stowage of assistive devices, such as wheelchairs.
Although these examples were the only ones provided in the DOT rule, this form should also provide ways for users to request or specify:
- An accompanying service animal;
- Pre-boarding requirements;
- The presence of devices such as pins, pacemakers and other implants;
- Additional carry-on baggage limits for the transportation of medical equipment; and
- Reduced airfare costs for attendant carers.
Scope of DOT requirements
We found that the airlines who contacted us believed that they only needed to make booking a flight accessible, however the requirements are much broader than that:
- Web pages associated with obtaining the following core air travel services and information that are offered on your primary Web site are conformant by December 12, 2015:
- Booking or changing a reservation, including all flight amenities;
- Checking in for a flight;
- Accessing a personal travel itinerary;
- Accessing the status of a flight;
- Accessing a personal frequent flyer account;
- Accessing flight schedules; and
- Accessing carrier contact information.
- All remaining Web pages on your primary Web site are conformant by December 12, 2016.
We also found that the airlines we worked with had not realised that all their web sites needed to be made accessible by December 12 2016. One of the airlines we worked with (and are still working with!) has over fifty web sites; so making them all accessible will take time!
Please also see our next article on Testing airline web sites for accessibility compliance: use of colour. Feel free to contact us if you need assistance meeting these requirements.
By Gian Wild