Air travel rules are under review

Richard Devylder, keynote speaker for the Minnesota State Council on Disability awards luncheon Sept. 26, is the U.S. Department of […]

Richard Devylder, keynote speaker for the Minnesota State Council on Disability awards luncheon Sept. 26, is the U.S. Department of Transportation advisor for accessible transportation. His speech here came at a time when there is an increased focus on complaints about air travel and accommodations for travelers with disabilities.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are more than 15 million adults in the United States with vision, auditory or mobility disabilities. About 30 percent of adults with disabilities travel by air, and the DOT expects this number to rise if it were easier to buy tickets and other services online, and to check-in using kiosks. Airlines and online travel agencies have argued, however, that the costs of achieving full accessibility are too great.

The Cornell University e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are working together to make it easier for the public to comment on proposed new federal regulations requiring air travel websites and airport check-in kiosks to be fully accessible to travelers with disabilities.

Travelers with disabilities, web designers, usability experts, and others with an interest in this proposal can use CeRI’s online participation site, Regulation Room (www.regulationroom.org), to get easy-to-read explanations of the proposal, look at the cost and benefit estimates, and discuss how the proposal could be improved. Then, CeRI will summarize the discussion on Regulation Room and submit it as a public comment that DOT will consider in finalizing the accessibility regulations.

“The Department’s partnership with the Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative makes it easier than ever for the public to comment on our proposed rules,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I en-courage everyone interested in our proposed website and kiosk accessibility to share their thoughts on the user-friendly Regulation Room site.”

“CeRI and DOT are both committed to getting more of the public involved meaningfully in the rulemaking process, and we believe that Regulation Room efforts so far have been quite successful,” said Cynthia Farina, Professor of Law and CeRI principal researcher.

“We are especially excited about doing the air travel accessibility rule. DOT needs help from travelers with disabilities and from others with practical experience in accessible design to answer many questions the Department has about creating reliable, cost-effective standards for websites and kiosks.“

This is the fourth rulemaking in which DOT and CeRI are using Regulation Room to make it easier for ordinary people to participate effectively in important government policy decisions. “We look forward to again providing an open, transparent, and collaborative forum for people to have their voices heard on an important federal policy initiative,” said Farina.

The Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) is a multidisciplinary research collaboration bringing together Cornell University faculty and students from Computing and Information Science, Law, and the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution. Working with legal informatics professionals at the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School (law.cornell.edu), CeRI researchers consult with government agencies on, and engage in theoretical and applied research about, the technology and practice of e-rulemaking and related areas of e-government.

Regulation Room (www.regulationroom.org) is a CeRI pilot project that provides an online environment for people and groups to learn about, discuss, and react to selected rules proposed by federal agencies.

Contributions become part of a formal public comment prepared by CeRI researchers and submitted to the federal agency for use in preparation of a final ruling. Regulation Room is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Google, and the IBM Center for the Business of Government. Regulation Room on Facebook: www.facebook.com/regulationroom Regulation Room on Twitter: http://twitter.com/regulationroom  

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