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ASTA Seeks DOT Exemption For AgentsJanuary 12, 2012 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
The complex issue issue of making websites accessible for people with disabilities - proposed by the Department Transportation (DOT) - came under fire from ASTA, who wants small agencies exempted. ASTA cited the costs of the DOT proposal as prohibitive.
ASTA reports it filed comments with the DOT in response to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) entitled “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Accessibility of Web Sites and Automated Kiosks at U.S. Airports.”
In its filing, ASTA said it supports the proposal that “small business” travel agencies, as defined by the Small Business Administration, be exempted from the technical requirements of the rule. ASTA noted that without the exemption, it “will be very costly and likely drive many travel agencies out of the Internet environment altogether,” which would ultimately not serve the interest of consumers.
ASTA supports the policy tradeoff proposed by DOT “allowing small business agencies to avoid the cost and disruption of website rewrites but requiring the offline provision” of providing any online-only offers to disabled travelers in the offline environment.
ASTA’s also noted in its filing that the industry should be subjected to a single compliance regime. ASTA referenced in its filing a similar rule-making from the Department of Justice (DOJ), and noted that while ASTA fully supports both the DOJ and DOT’s goal of “bringing websites to a state of high accessibility by disabled persons as soon as feasible,” one of the two agencies should take the lead and put forth a single, coordinated proposal for the travel industry’s review.
ASTA also noted that any compliance with federally imposed standards is not a job that should be turned over to third-party contractors, such as the airlines or the Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC), as DOT suggests.
"Interjecting the airlines into the path between the government and the agencies with regards to compliance with the accessibility rules will add another layer of complexity, cost and conflict. Moreover, in today’s marketplace there are many travel agencies that do not sell airline tickets, and are therefore outside the jurisdiction of the airlines and ARC, as well as the DOT," ASTA said in its comments.