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National Council on Disability Calls for Tougher Standards for Accessible Airline Self-Service Kiosk Systems

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

NCD #06-511
May 17, 2006 

WASHINGTON—National Council on Disability (NCD) today released an NCD Position Paper on Access to Airline Self-Service Kiosk Systems (/publications/2006/kiosk), calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to adopt an updated Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) standard for accessible design applicable to these kiosk systems and that DOT then initiate settlement negotiations with covered air carriers and airports to bring their kiosk systems into full compliance.

According to NCD chairperson Lex Frieden, “U.S. air carriers and airports have obligations under federal accessibility laws and regulations to provide cross-disability access to their kiosk systems. Those carriers and airports operating kiosk systems not in conformity with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s standard for accessible design, which is also ACAA’s standard, are out of compliance.”

“Advances in information technology (IT) have enabled the airline industry to improve the quality and efficiency of its services delivery while reducing operating costs. But the airlines would leave travelers with disabilities out of the IT loop, failing to offer them the same benefits and convenience of service available to other travelers. The airlines’ resistance to providing customer services through fully accessible kiosks and Web sites disregards the capacity of accessible IT to empower people with disabilities to do for themselves,” Frieden concluded.

Kiosk technology is an essential component of the IT-based customer self-service business model that is pervading the air-travel industry. Automated kiosks employed by the industry (frequently called self-service or check-in kiosks) are networked peripheral IT devices whose interfaces give consumers direct access to companies’ centralized customer-service systems.

The air carrier industry has failed to acknowledge its legal obligations to provide equal access to passengers with disabilities, advances in access technology, and the significant economic benefit the industry derives from air travelers with disabilities.

Although no airline-kiosk vendor serving the U.S. market has included accessibility among its product features, vendors confirm that they foresee no significant technical obstacles to development and deployment—using existing access technology—of fully accessible kiosk systems. A leading authority on accessibility technology estimates that the costs of access hardware and software modifications for a fully accessible system would not exceed one to two percent of the overall cost. However, the airline industry has yet to acknowledge the need for such a product.

An official website of the National Council on Disability