Airlines, Disabled Passengers Weigh Proposed Access Rules

Potential changes by a federal agency could affect how service dogs are transported and safety data presented.

About 10,000 blind adults in the U.S. use guide dogs, Hingson said, and numerous others use service or assistance dogs.The proposed new rules also seek to increase accommodations for hearing-impaired passengers by requiring U.S. and foreign carriers to caption all safety and informational videos on aircraft. On new planes, it would require captions on entertainment videos, DVDs and other audiovisual displays.

Carriers must be sure that those with a visual or hearing impairment have access to the same safety and other information as everyone else, the rule says.

The National Assn. of the Deaf, among other organizations, has submitted comments backing the new rules that require more accessibility.

But the Air Transport Assn., the trade organization of the principal U.S. airlines, does not support the proposed new rules. In comments filed with the Department of Transportation, the organization contends that the agency "has conflated civil rights with customer service matters that it should leave to the competitive marketplace."

The association reasons that many of the new rules would burden air carriers, many of which are already struggling with financially problems.

In the comments to the department, the airline industry organization said the agency had underestimated the costs of adding the suggested accessibility improvements.

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