Monday, May 2, 2016

Committee Appointed to Consider Amending Definition of “Service Animal” for Flight Access

A previous blog described the decision of the Department of Transportation last December to initiate a negotiated rulemaking (Reg-Neg) process under which stakeholders would advise the Department on a number of access issues for air travelers with disabilities. The Department had received 68 comments by the closing of the extended comment period on January 21, but has continued to post comments submitted after the deadline. There are now 110 comments on the webpage devoted to the proposal

The rulemaking process has taken a step forward with the appointment of an ACCESS Advisory Committee that will make recommendations with respect to three issues: (1) whether to require accessible inflight entertainment (IFE) and strengthen accessibility requirements for other in-flight communications; (2) whether to require an accessible lavatory on new single-aisle aircraft over a certain size; and (3) whether to amend the definition of “service animals” that may accompany passengers with a disability on a flight.  The following individuals and organizations have been appointed to the Committee:
  1. Michelle Albert, Boeing Commercial Airplanes
  2. Zainab Alkebsi, National Association of the Deaf
  3. Mary Barnicle, United Airlines
  4. Kelly Buckland, National Council on Independent Living
  5. Curtis L. Decker, National Disability Rights Network
  6. Parnell Diggs, National Federation of the Blind
  7. Paul Doell, National Air Carrier Association
  8. Geoff Freed, National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH
  9. Brian Friedman, JetBlue Airways
  10. Laurie A. Gawelko, Service Dog Express, LLC
  11. Lise Hamlin, Hearing Loss Association of America
  12. Dr. Katherine Hunter-Zaworski, Oregon State University
  13. Candace Kolander, Association of Flight Attendants
  14. Doug Lavin, International Air Transport Association
  15. Russ Lemieux, Airline Passenger Experience Association
  16. Lorne Mackenzie, WestJet Airlines
  17. David Martin, Delta Air Lines
  18. Orit H. Michiel, Motion Picture Association of America
  19. Bradley W. Morris, Psychiatric Service Dog Partners
  20. Lawrence Mullins, Lufthansa Group
  21. Lee Page, Paralyzed Veterans of America
  22. Deborah Lynn Price, Frontier Airlines
  23. Roser Roca-Toha, Airbus
  24. Alicia Smith, National Alliance on Mental Illness
  25. Anthony Stevens, American Counsel [sic] of the Blind
  26. Jennifer Sunderman, Regional Airline Association
  27. Blane A. Workie, U.S. Department of Transportation (Designated Federal Officer)
Thus, two participants are from service dog organizations, though others are from disability rights groups that will undoubtedly have perspectives on the service dog mandate of the Committee. Other service and guide dog groups had put themselves forward as potential participants but were not chosen. 

First Meeting of Committee Announced, Public Invited

The first meeting of the Committee will be held on May 17 and 18 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street NW, Washington DC 20001 (202-234-0700).  Although the meeting is open to the public, the size of the room only allows for 150 attendees, so those wishing to attend are advised to contact Alyssa Battle (Abattle@linkvisum.com; 703-442-4575) or Kyle Illgenfritz (kilgenfritz@linkvisum.com; 703-442-4575, ext. 128) to reserve a space.  The Committee will terminate upon submission of its recommendations or after two years, whichever happens sooner.  The Federal Register release states:

The Committee will dedicate a substantial amount of time at the first meeting to establishing the rules, procedures, and process of the Committee, such as outlining the voting rights of the Committee members and defining the meaning of “consensus.”

Additional tentative dates for Committee meetings are June 14-15, July 11-12, August 16-17, September 22-23, and October 13-14. Notices of future meeting locations, and firm dates, will be announced in the Federal Register at least 15 days prior to each meeting.

Members of the public may submit written comments on the three topics to be considered by the Committee through the regulations.gov website, referencing Docket No. DOT-OST-2015-0246. This means that other individuals and organizations interested in being heard on the issues that will be discussed by the Committee have additional time to comment.  Department of Transportation, Negotiated Rulemaking Committee Membership and First Meeting, RIN 2105-AE12, 81 Fed. Reg. 26178, May 2, 2016.

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