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Published on : Wednesday, May 25, 2016
In an effort to move forward with its intention to establish rules regarding closed captions and descriptive audio services in inflight entertainment (IFE), as well as two other issues involving airline passenger accessibility, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has established the Accessible Air Transportation (ACCESS) Advisory Committee to pursue negotiated rulemaking (“Reg-Neg”). The committee, which is comprised of industry and disability group representatives, is charged with reaching consensus and proposing amendments to the Department’s disability regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Rules would apply to aircraft flying in and out of the United States.
Recognized as the most influential, value-driven membership organization in the industry, theAirline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) has been invited to participate on the ACCESS Advisory Committee. APEX will be represented by Michael Childers, APEX Board Member, Technology Chair, and Closed Caption Working Group Chair, and Russ Lemieux, APEX Executive Director, both of whom attended the Committee’s first meeting, 17-18 May in Washington D.C.
“With more than a decade of engagement with the DOT on the issue of accessible IFE, the APEX Technology Committee and Closed Caption Working Group have earned a reputation for their expert and credible knowledge which now allows us the opportunity to influence regulations and get fair hearings on this important issue,” said Mr. Childers. “The industry is motivated to serve its customers and has made great progress in improving accessibility of IFE to people with disabilities. We’re confident our recommendations will provide for even greater progress while not placing an undue burden on the industry.”
A presentation on the Committee’s progress so far, and what will be expected during the remaining five meetings in 2016, will be included on the agenda at APEX TECH in Los Angeles, 8-9 June, the industry’s leading technical forum addressing technologies impacting IFE, including various standards and new technologies for the passenger experience. APEX Technical Director Bryan Rusenko will review the specification, as well as place it for member vote.
During the Committee’s first meeting, held in Washington DC, a working group to identify and work through issues involving IFE and inflight communications was established with Childers and Geoff Freed of National Center for Accessible Media and WGBH in Boston to act as co-chairs, along with Zainab Alkebsi of the National Association of the Deaf, and David Martin of Delta Air Lines. Childers, at the request of the DOT facilitator, presented an overview of the issues regarding the provision of closed captions in IFE at the meeting, and reported on the proposed closed caption specification being recommended to APEX membership by the APEX Closed Caption Working Group.
Under the Reg-Neg process interested parties, including disability advocacy organizations, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, the DOT and other stakeholders, will meet to identify issues and attempt to reach consensus on recommendations to be made to DOT as to what rules might be acceptable regarding IFE accessibility. DOT has appointed a neutral convener to facilitate the process. Should the Reg-Neg process not result in consensus DOT may revert to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) approach in which DOT proposes rules to which stakeholders respond.