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understanding of blindness and acceptance on terms of equality

for all of our citizens who are blind.

I feel we have made great

progress, but much remains to be done.

Our nation's laws

governing travel and the use of public accommodations by the

handicapped lack specific mandates or are otherwise a patchwork

quilt to the extent that they exist at all.

I have already

mentioned the White Cane Laws which exist in many states.


following states have enacted most provisions of our model law or

reasonable facsimiles thereof:

Arizona, California, Colorado,

District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana,

Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New

Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South

Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

But, aside

from this model and a few other laws which now exist in the

several states, there is no generally applicable, universal

mandate designed to ban discrimination on the basis of blindness

or handicap in the use of travel facilities and public


Mr. Chairman, we are badly in need of such a mandate.


regulation (or failure to regulate) discrimination in the

commercial aviation industry in our country is a classic example

of why Congress should step in now to provide an overall federal


A little over ten years ago, the Civil Aeronautics

Board (CAB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were

asked by some groups representing the handicapped to make

regulations which would prohibit discrimination.

We were not

part of this.

By and large blind people were being left alone

and were, for the most part, treated respectfully and without

restriction by the airlines.

But, handicapped persons

(particularly those using wheelchairs) were having difficulty. Some were refused air travel altogether. This was wrong.

The upshot of it all was that in April, 1977, the FAA made

some rules.

More accurately, the FAA purported to make some


You will find the rule or purported rule to which I am

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Here is a rule which was supposed to be intended to

eliminate or reduce discrimination on the basis of handicap.


exists today as the most comprehensive rule (if you can call it a

rule) on discrimination against the handicapped in air travel.

So, here it is, "Authority to Refuse Transportation."

Sadly, and to our disadvantage, the weaknesses of this

purported rule do not stop with its title.

14 CFR 121.586 says

that no air carrier may refuse to transport a handicapped person

unless the carrier has procedures for providing transportation to

handicapped persons, and the person in question cannot be carried

in accordance with the airline's procedures, or if the person

fails to comply with the notice requirements which may be stated

in the procedures.

If either circumstance occurs--that is, (1)

the handicapped person cannot be carried in accordance with the

airline's procedures, or (2) the handicapped person fails to

comply with the airline's notice requirements--the carrier has

authority under 121.586 to refuse transportation; in other words,

to discriminate.

Notice how the FAA completely ducked the opportunity which

it had in making these rules to articulate a consistent, clear,

and universally applicable federal policy.

The rule does not

identify prohibited conduct and places no restraint upon airline

discretion in making the procedures, other than the fact that if

they exist they must be filed with the FAA.

Big deal.

This is

no protection, because the FAA has not established any criteria

or parameters for evaluating the procedures which are filed by

the carriers.

Moreover, we suspect FAA does not evaluate the

procedures at all. You might asked them to explain their process for doing so and to identify which, if any, procedures have ever

been rejected and for what reasons.

I predict that the

inevitable result of such questioning will be the conclusion that

FAA is not regulatino discrimination on the basis of handicap in

the commercial aviation industry.

Its regulations merely grant

authority to refuse transportation on the basis of handicap,

provided certain conditions are met and the airlines determine

the conditions.

Some protection.

As for the CAB, it has taken a similar lack luster approach

to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of handicap.


the CAB does have regulations on this subject (14 CFR Part 382)

but these have limited applicability.

A principal problem

relates to a very narrow definition of what constitutes "federal

financial assistance."

We have argued that, since air carriers

receive the services of federal personnel (both FAA and CAB), all

airlines are recipients of federal financial assistance.

However, the current position of the regulators is that

assistance must be tied strictly to grants or payments of money,

as in the case of subsidized air routes.

Even more, it has been

argued that on routes other than those that are subsidized, an

air carrier is not a recipient of federal financial assistance.

This narrow view results in a lack of federal jurisdiction (you

might say, a convenient lack of jurisdiction) over most carriers

under most circumstances.

After all, if there is no

jurisdiction, there is no power to regulate discrimination and the airlines are free to adopt and exercise their own policies

with minimal federal oversight or intrusion.

This in a nut shell is the current status of the law on

prohibiting discrimination against blind and handicapped people

in air travel.

The lack of a consistent and clearly articulated

federal policy has fostered uncertainty, tension, and in some instances even hostility on the part of airlines in their dealings with blind and handicapped people. We have been forced

to litigation in several instances.

But, these confrontations

could have been avoided or certainly minimized if there had been

stronger federal leadership by the agencies responsible for

safeguarding the interests of the public, including blind and

handicapped taxpaying citizens.

Nor have such difficulties been

limited strictly to commercial aviation.

Cruise ships, lodging

places, eating establishments, and amusement parks have also on

occasion sought to block our entry or otherwise to limit our


Occurrences of this sort are admittedly less

common than the acts of discrimination which take place in

commercial air travel.

However, a comprehensive federal policy

should address the entire spectrum of the travel industry, both

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transportation and public accommodations.

Mr. Chairman, our experience in utilizing the White Cane

Laws in the states which have them has been enormously successful

and might well be instructive in charting a course of action at the federal level. Most significant of all is the fact that the

White Cane Laws have served us well as a shield against

discrimination, as a sort of preventative barrier.

Seldom has it

been necessary for us to resort to litigation under these


We have found the travel industry to be capable of

responding positively when we could show that a law exists to

protect us.

But, in all too many instances which still occur

today, we remain unable to make this showing.

When we are left

unprotected by a mandate from Congress or a state or local

legislative body, the results which can be achieved by negotiation or attempts to persuade are far more doubtful and

often not satisfactory.

When we talk of discrimination on the basis of blindness or

handicap in the travel industry, I want to be clear with you

about what we mean.

In its essential terms, the word

"discrimination" as used in connection with human rights and the

repression of minorities or women means unreasonable and

detrimental classification.

It implies, of course, prejudice,

denial of opportunity, unequal treatment, or treatment which is

different from that accorded to others.

To be discriminatory,

the classification must be both unreasonable and detrimental.

The discriminations against blind or handicapped people are

often not recognized as such.

They cloak themselves in many

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