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Unfortunately, despite the progress and efforts that have been made, obstacles continue to exist for the handicapped which impede their freedom to travel. Whether in the context of the airlines, passenger trains or buses, the handicapped repeatedly encounter barriers which prevent traveling at ease or often traveling at all.
I look forward to an informative hearing. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to our witnesses here today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FLORIO. Thank you.
I call our first two witnesses, who will be part of our first panel, we are pleased to have with us Hon. John Snyder, Under Secretary of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce; and Dr. Judith Dixon, Head, Consumer Relations Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
I ask our two witnesses to kindly come forward.
Welcome to the committee. Mr. Under Secretary, we appreciate your going forward and introducing your colleague for the record. All witnesses' statements will be made a part of the record in their entirety, and they may feel free to proceed in a summary fashion.
Mr. Under Secretary. STATEMENTS OF JOHN K. SNYDER, JR., ACTING UNDER SECRE
TARY FOR TRAVEL AND TOURISM, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; AND JUDITH M. DIXON, HEAD, CONSUMER RELATIONS SECTION, ACCOMPANIED BY HYLDA KAMISAR, HEAD, REFERENCE SECTION, NATIONAL LIBRARY SERVICE FOR THE BLIND AND PHYSICALLY HANDICAPPED, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Mr. SNYDER. Jean O'Brien, our Senior Policy Analyst in the USTTA organization accompanies me.
Mr. FLORIO. Welcome.
Mr. SNYDER. Mr. Chairman, this is indeed a very important activity, and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Transportation, and Tourism to testify on travel by handicapped persons.
In the past decade, solid progress has been made in the removal of barriers to handicapped travelers. In 1968, Congress enacted the Architectural Barriers Act. This measure required certain buildings and facilities designed, constructed, altered, or leased with Federal funds after 1969 to be accessible to, and usable by, most physically handicapped persons.
In 1973, Congress enacted the Rehabilitation Act which, among other things:
Established the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board to insure compliance with standards issued under the Architectural Barriers Act; prohibited discrimination against qualified, handicapped persons participating in federally assisted programs; and required that a sufficient number of buildings or parts of buildings be made accessible so that handicapped persons can participate in activities supported by Federal funds.
Guidelines subsequently issued to implement the Rehabilitation Act do not generally apply to buildings not designed, constructed, or altered with Federal funds. A hotel would be covered by the act only if located in an airport financed in part with Federal funds.
In 1978, amendments to the 1973 act were enacted, requiring minimum guidelines for accessible design. As a result, uniform Federal accessibility standards are now under development.
Regulations based on section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act were issued on December 12, 1982, by the Civil Aeronautics Board to insure that handicapped persons receive adequate air transportation service without unjust discrimination.
These regulations prohibit all certified air carriers from excluding qualified handicapped persons from the benefits of air transportation.
Additionally, the regulations require all air carriers receiving a Federal subsidy to: Make their aircraft reasonably accessible to handicapped persons with mobility impairments; allow sight and hearing-impaired travelers to be accompanied on aircraft by guide dogs and all flights in interstate and overseas air transportation; permit passengers using canes or crutches to keep those aids near them.
Aircraft designers are beginning to take the needs of handicapped persons into consideration. Boeing 767's are now being manufactured with movable arm rests on some aisle seats to make entry and exit easier for the disabled passenger.
An onboard wheelchair, called a stow-away, which is for the use of disabled passengers, is now standard equipment on 767's.
Enforcement of the Architectural Barriers Act has led to the construction of ramps for wheelchairs and wheelchair-accessible drinking fountains and restroom facilities at many public buildings, museums, and national monuments.
Research is being conducted to assist the development of minimum guidelines and requirements for accessible design.
Despite these advances, and I underline this, there is still a long, unfinished agenda with respect to equal access to tourism and recreation facilities for handicapped persons.
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board has received 944 written complaints about barriers since it was established, and 822 have yet to be resolved; 128 of these complaints were received this year alone.
Few restaurant menus are printed in braille.
Rental cars with hand controls are not available at all of our major cities.
The only commercial aircraft with wheelchair-accessible restrooms are the new-generation Boeing 767's and Airbus Industrie's A-300.
Many passengers who are sight-impaired may have special problems in coping with airport security devices and in comprehending in-flight demonstrations of safety features and survival equipment.
Treatment of the handicapped traveler often varies from airport to airport, even on the same airline.
Even though the addition of onboard wheelchairs to 767's represents a significant breakthrough for the handicapped passenger, there is no existing standard, Federal or otherwise, which requires such wheelchairs to be equipped with a seatbelt. In one incident I was informed of recently, a paraplegic passenger using a beltless wheelchair fell from the chair.
Wheelchairs are not routinely available, as they are at airports, to carry the physically disabled from the ticket counter to the boarding platform, or from the platform to the curb, at many train stations and bus terminals.
Restrooms on interstate buses are generally not wheelchair accessible, nor are train or subway station turnstiles.
State governments have taken steps to expand travel and tourism opportunities for handicapped persons, and nearly every State has a barriers law requiring public spaces to be accessible.
The American National Standard Institute has developed design standards to insure accessibility to buildings, but there are no similar standards defining "accessibility” in transportation.
There are several possible ways of approaching this challenge.
I think we might encourage measures such as: Refresher courses for transport company personnel: Aircraft cabin crews, train conductors, ticket agents, and others who serve the handicapped traveler.
Sensitivity training for waiters, waitresses, maitred's; bellhops, and hotel front desk personnel.
Appointment of technically qualified handicapped individuals to the boards of directors of airline, motor coach and hotel corporations; and membership in the National Center for a Barrier Free Environment for aircraft designers, architects who specialize in hotel and restaurant designs, and travel industry trade associations.
The special needs of handicapped persons need to be taken into account during the design stage by manufacturers in consultation with persons who are handicapped. Progress can be made if major trade associations which have not already done so will appoint advisory committees of handicapped individuals or establish joint study groups to examine accessibility problems.
I personally believe that most travel industry executives, in working with them over a 12-year period now, and, in fact, all Americans, want handicapped persons to be able to share the benefits of travel, and I am convinced that once they fully comprehend the nature of the constraints and barriers which deter the handicapped traveler-and the questions of equity and justice which these barriers pose-travel industry executives will be in the vanguard of efforts at reform.
[Testimony resumes on p. 22.]
In the past decade, solid progress has been made in the removal of barriers to handicapped travelers. Much of this advance has been due to Federal legislation. In 1968, Congress
enacted the Architectural Barriers Act.
This measure required
certain buildings and facilities designed, constructed, altered
or leased with Federal funds after 1969 to be accessible to, and
usable by, most physically handicapped persons.
Under the Act, implementing guidelines were to be developed by the General Services Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Postal Service. Guidelines, based on standards developed by the American National Standards Institute, were subsequently issued, but tended to vary from agency to agency, according to intended
Passage of the Architectural Barriers Act of was followed in
1973 by enactment of the Rehabilitation Act which, among other
· 84 - 2
prohibited discrimination against qualified, handicapped
persons participating in federally-assisted programs, and
required that a sufficient number of buildings or parts
of buildings be made accessible so that handicapped
persons can participate in activities supported by
Guidelines subsequently issued to implement the Rehabilitation Act do not generally apply to privately-owned residences or buildings not designed, constructed or altered with
For example, a hotel would be covered by the Act
and its implementing regulations, only if located in an airport complex financed in part with Federal funds.
In 1978, the Rehabilitation, Comprehensive Services and Developmental Disabilities Amendments were enacted, amending the 1973 Act to require minimum guidelines for accessible design. a result, uniform Federal accessibility standards are now under development. These will apply only to Federally-funded
construction, but would cover such travel-related facilities as
Department of Transportation-funded rapid rail facilities.
Regulations based on Section 504 of the Architectual
Barriers Act were issued on December 12, 1982, by the Civil