The airline industry is hurriedly preparing for the looming Dec 12 US Department of Transport/ACAA deadline – some better than others. Many are now nervous and unsure of what to expect and want clear cut answers to questions like “Is this accessible?”, “Will this satisfy the DOT?”. Many seem to expect hordes of angry, litigious people with disabilities to instantly descend with lawsuits in hand at the smallest infringement of ‘accessibility law’. By and large, this just won’t happen and it seems to me, that dogged adherence to the letter of law is actually contrary to the ‘spirit of accessibility’.
Why? Because while legislative drivers are important they are not absolute. People with disabilities ultimately just want a level playing field, and for those who try to make that happen there is a strong case for the defense even if a solution isn’t perfect. Guidelines and standards such as WCAG are important but they serve a greater purpose in society than merely demanding compliance. Engaging in the accessibility process is also about embracing human diversity, extending empathy, care and consideration to others. Lets not loose sight of that.
As to the looming deadline – the question for the everyone in the airline industry will be ‘has due diligence been done?’. While there will likely be some litigious opportunism, really where it can be demonstrated that genuine efforts to improve accessibility have been undertaken that will positively tip the scales for anyone in the industry worried about their position after Dec 12.
Finally, I’m very happy to have worked over the last 6 months with an airline travel provider on their Travel Distribution Platform (TDP). TDP is used by many top players in the airline industry and together with InterAccess we worked on endless cycles of iterative accessibility audits, code reviews, training as well as user testing with blind and vision impaired users in the National Council for the Blind (NCBI). My client actively engaged in the process to practically improve the accessibility of TDP as well as with the inclusive spirit of accessibility.
Still the question still remains for the industry what will really happen after Dec 12? While it may be bumpy for some, I’m hopeful that the net result of the DOT/ACAA efforts will be that accessing air travel online around the world will get easier for everyone.