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aware of the difficulties; because it is an area that needs a great deal of work and understanding.
Mr. FLORIO. It is my impression that you really feel that your agency is more a coordinating role than an implementing role.
You have talked about the private sector doing more in terms of publications and information. You have talked about the States and other agencies changing policies. Is that what you see as your role to get all of those other non-Commerce Department people moving in the right direction?
Mr. SNYDER. I am trying to look at our agency realistically, based on the amount of funding and personnel available. I have committed myself in this administration, having had an opportunity to work now for 12 years in the Federal Governnient, to try to do something that gets done. So many times I have been involved with things and discussed them with the appropriate people, and they never seem to happen.
I am seeing what we can really do ourselves, what really will accomplish something, rather than just talking about it. And just to follow up with that, in answering your question, you see there is no question in my mind right now we can do some coordinating activities. If the opportunity presents itself through legislation that gives us additional requirements, or the private sector comes forth with some ideas on how they could be more involved and how money should be committed out of our budget that would be justified and bring forth some results, we would be deeply committed to doing that, without question.
Mr. FLORIO. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. RICHARDSON. I want to commend you, Mr. Snyder, for being very candid in telling us that you recognize there are some problems and we obviously can do more. That is a very constructive spirit. I have found the travel and tourism industry representatives to be very openminded and positive.
Perhaps if we are not going to commit additional resources is there something that could be done within the Tourism Department at Commerce? Could you establish a hotline to answer the questions of a handicapped person wanting to know if a certain hotel or airline has accommodations for the handicapped?
In my home State of New Mexico, and most of the problems lie in lack of information. I think we should and take steps to better inform handicapped individuals about the facilities that are available to them.
Mr. FLORIO. Thank you very much.
To follow up on the point made, it has been brought to my attention that basic standards of definitions are not even uniformly appreciated. A handicapped individual wants to go to a hotel, calls the hotel, asks if the accessibility is available for the particular type of handicapped, and there is not standardization to have someone give a knowledgeable response. I am not sure if there is a policy on a chain-wide basis; that is, one particular hotel chain versus another hotel chain.
Is it possible that in pursuing your responsibilities under the tourism policy, the question of universal accessibility you seem to be very high on the convening of conferences, is there any thought in the process of convening these conferences, doing it on the basis of a particular topic, hotel chain accessibility, uniformity of definition, and it seems to me that the private sector would be very interested in this, because it is a marketing mechanism, that there would be a chain that would advertise that it in fact is able to deal with the concerns of wheelchair tourists.
I am trying to determine what it is that your agency is capable of doing and is inclined to do, notwithstanding the resource deficiency that we all acknowledge exists there, that would be constructive in mobilizing those resources out there in a coordinated, organized way?
Mr. SNYDER. I think your point is well taken. There definitely is something we can do and I don't think we have done enough.
The opportunity is perfect right now, because of the whole activity of the private sector meeting together and producing a marketing plan for us. I will personally make a commitment to you that this issue gets on the agenda that is being considered by these top marketing executives.
Getting in touch with each association and seeing what they have to offer has been a step that we have just recently taken for literature. All of these other activities are just as important and I thank you for bringing them to my attention, because we will look into them.
Working through the Travel Industry Association and the newly established policy council, too, on this entire activity might be very worthwhile.
Mr. FLORIO. One last specific question: As a result of the CAB's competitive marketing case, many of the airlines, et cetera, will lose their antitrust immunity within a year. One of those interline agreements pertains to the transfer of handicapped persons between airlines. Have you had the opportunity to give any thought as to whether that agreement is going to fall, and what will be the impact upon handicapped travel as a result of that agreement falling, and if there will be an adverse effect, do you regard this as something as part of your responsibility to coordinate this question of the results of this decision in terms of universal accessibility?
Mr. SNYDER. Yes; definitely that is our responsibility. I have not given that particular section that much thought.
However, we have been providing information to the committee on that particular case and I will be more than happy to look into that for you.
Mr. FLORIO. Dr. Dixon, you have emphasized the flow of information, the accumulation of data to inform handicapped travelers or potential travelers about information.
Is there any value in considering a facility, whether it be your own facility or some other agency of Government, that would take the responsibility for the accumulation of a national data base for this type of information?
Do you regard your own facility as that, that data base?
Ms. Dixon. I would like to introduce Hylda Kamisar, Head of our Reference Section.
Ms. KAMISAR. Our information service covers a lot of subjects and we do not see ourselves as specialists in travel, although we do try to cover that subject, as well as others, so there are a couple of other resources in the United States that specialize in travel information for the handicapped, the most prominent one being the Moss Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia. I am not sure they are federally funded, but they do provide an information service tailored to the individual.
That is the sort of thing that you have in mind, to come from a Federal agency?
Mr. FLORIO. Would you think, though, that the average handicapped traveler, or even the organizations that are represented here today, would be aware of that service?
Ms. Dixon. I think not.
The whole issue of information is really a crucial one, and there certainly is a tremendous need.
The point I was making is there really has been a great deal done and we have collected much of it, but as far as information particularly, the information that is produced by the private sector is really greatly needed, and I think that the average person may not know terribly much about some of the information services that are available.
Mr. FLORIO. The philosophic question then would be: Is that information service, whether it be the specific one you talked about, or just the general, generic goal of having those services available, is that appropriately an exclusive private sector responsibility, or is there some role for the public sector, and perhaps is there an overriding role for the public sector in this area, so as to insure awareness of accessibility into the data base for this type of information?
Ms. Dixon. I think it is a combination approach certainly.
Ms. KAMISAR. It would be very well to have a national center of information, a data base, a hotline kind of service that people could access on an individual basis.
I am not prepared to suggest where the most appropriate place for that would be but I think it would be a useful service.
Mr. Florio. Let me express my appreciation to all of the witnesses and you have been very helpful as a introduction approach to this problem.
Thank you very much for your participation this afternoon.
Our next panel is made up of four individuals. We have Dr. Harold Snider, president of the Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped; Mr. James Gashel, director, governmental affairs, National Federation of the Blind; Ms. Lorraine DiPietro, director, National Deafness Information Center, Gallaudet College; and Mr. Gordon H. Mansfield, national advocacy director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Your statements will be made part of the record in their entirety.
STATEMENTS OF HAROLD SNIDER, PRESIDENT, SOCIETY FOR
THE ADVANCEMENT OF TRAVEL FOR THE HANDICAPPED; JAMES GASHEL, DIRECTOR, GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND; LORRAINE DIPIETRO, DI. RECTOR, NATIONAL DEAFNESS INFORMATION CENTER, GALLAUDET COLLEGE; AND GORDON H. MANSFIELD, NATIONAL ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA
Mr. SNIDER. I am Dr. Harold Snider, the immediate past president of the Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped (SATH).
On behalf of our members across the country and around the world in the travel industry and our handicapped members, I would like to thank this subcommittee and Chairman Florio for convening these first hearings ever on the subject of travel and tourism for the handicapped.
The Bureau of Health Statistics in the Federal Government says that there are 35 million handicapped Americans, and we have heard statements that, if you demographically extrapolate the handicapped population in this country based on the amount of money spent on travel and tourism, the handicapped market could represent as much as $30 billion potential revenue per year in the United States for handicapped people who would travel.
That is a lot of money.
SATH is a nonprofit, tax-exempt, educational organization which is part of the travel industry. We have been in existence since 1975, and we operated on a shoestring budget with no public funds and only from funds privately contributed by members and other charitable organizations.
We have held meetings in this country and overseas on a regular basis. For the last several years, we have been privileged to work with the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus and have held luncheons on Capitol Hill.
We cosponsored a conference with the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration on improving and promoting travel, and we were delighted to be able to do that.
We have had a close working relationship with the National Tour Association. Its executive vice president and its current president, Bruce Beckham, will testify later today; and it was my privilege last month to present a seminar at their meeting in Houston.
Our executive director, Murray Vidockler was the recipient of the Travel Leader of the Year Award for his work on behalf of travel for the handicapped, since he was the founder of the Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped.
Our current president, Mira Berman, is also in the audience with us today.
I would like to touch upon a couple of points in my written statement.
I cut my teeth on travel for the handicapped as the first coordinator of programs for the handicapped of the Smithsonian Institution from 1975 to 1978, and that was a tough way to cut your teeth on travel for the handicapped, because a lot of Congressmen called to send some handicapped people for a tour with about 5 minutes notice.
I recall very vividly going on a major airline in this country in 1977 to my grandmother's funeral in Florida, and having an airline stewardess put her hands on my shoulders, her knee in my groin, pushing me back in a seat, and telling me it was a Federal regulation that handicapped people had to sit on blankets, because supposedly we couldn't control our bladder. I told her my blindness had nothing to do with my bladder.
That kind of discrimination, Mr. Chairman, continues to go on on a regular basis in this country.
Mr. Florio. Does not, or does?
Mr. SNIDER. Does. It continues to happen every day and the reason it does is because of a lack of good Federal regulations, a lack of good enforcement and very poor training, that the airlines don't seem to be able to train their flight crews in how to work with handicapped people and that is a very important part of my statement. There has simply got to be a set of industry-wide standards to eliminate these kinds of discrimination. And that really means we ought to make a good-faith effort within the industry, with the carriers and with the Federal agencies responsible and with the Congress acting as kind of a watchdog and maybe this committee could do that, to see to it that some kind of good faith effort is attempted before we may consider the need to introduce antidiscrimination legislation.
I would hope the travel industry would perceive the market as strong enough that it would take the necessary steps to train its staff properly but that really is the problem. That is one of the major problems we face while traveling.
I was one of the 50 coplaintiffs in a case in 1978 with the National Federation of the Blind whereby people were not allowed on airlines with canes. It took-how many-years to force the FAA to change its rules about canes.
We are not in a utopia and I travel probably 4 or 5 months out of the year, and no trip of mine ever goes by uneventfully and that is a sad thing to say.
And I would say that only if we have industry-wide standards, and if necessary, legislation, is that kind of thing going to stop.
We basically also in this field have a lack of research that has been done on the handicapped market. Without research on the handicapped market, the travel industry cannot be induced to spend its money developing that market and encouraging that market, like any other minority market. We have people in the airline business and tour business who market to women, blacks, Hispanics, but we have no specialists working for major travel organizations, such as air carriers who specifically market and answer questions for handicapped travelers.
That leads to the third point in my testimony, which is that there really is a lack of information, a lack of a centralized information source that was touched on in the first part of these hearings. There is, in my opinion, a desperate need for a computerized national hotline. In my opinion, it ought to be operated by both the public and the private sector jointly.
The Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped would be delighted to receive Federal funds and operate that kind of system in cooperation with whoever wants to do it. The gather