International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners
UPDATE: In May 2008, the DOT published the Final Rule. IAADP was delighted to learn that our lengthy advocacy campaign, 2004 - 2007, described below had a successful outcome. IAADP wrote a Thank you letter to Mr. Robert Ashby and the U.S. Department of Transportation in July 2008, a copy of which can be seen right below. The desired changes to be found in the 2008 Guidance Document and discussion about it in the Preamble to the Final Rule can be found in our Air Travel section. Click here.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ASSISTANCE DOG PARTNERS
P. O. Box 638 * Sterling Hts., MI 48311 * 586-826-3938
Board of Directors: Ed Eames, Ph.D., Joan Froling, Toni Eames, Jill Exposito
Wendy Morrell, Tanya Eversole, Devon Wilkins
July 30, 2008
Mr. Robert Ashby
U.S. Department of Transportation
OST, Office of the General Counsel
Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings - C-70
1200 New Jersey Ave, S.E., W96–409
Washington, D.C. 20590
I'm writing you on behalf of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, (IAADP) which has over two thousand members, many of whom fly with assistance dogs. A large number of them participated in the Public Comment period on the 2004 NPRM to amend the regulations to the Air Carrier Access Act. I would like to express our sincerest thanks to you and the U.S. Department of Transportation for listening to the concerns of our community and reconsidering some of the language in the Guidance document labeled Appendix A pertaining to seating accommodations for passengers traveling with assistance dogs. We very much appreciate the extensive wordsmithing, such as that related to sharing footspace. It was a tremendous relief to read that the Department has eliminated the airline's option of charging us for a second ticket if our assistance dog is too large to fit only in the space directly in front of one seat and may need extra footspace. These important language changes, which I'm told were mainly crafted by you, have secured the access rights of disabled citizens who must work with a large canine assistant due to their height, weight and/or the severity of their mobility impairment. Travel is very challenging for many in the disabled community, but with the clarifications you've drafted, you've ensured the flight crew will not misunderstand how to accommodate assistance dog teams in the plane cabin in the future. We are grateful for your efforts on behalf of those who work with guide, hearing and service dogs.
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners
Information & Advocacy Center
P.O. Box 638
Sterling Hts., MI 48311
Advocacy Effort Addressing
Threat to Air Travel Access Rights in USA
Size v. Air Travel Access re: DOT NPRM 2004-07
IAADP launched an important advocacy campaign in 2004 to persuade the U.S. Department of Transportation to revise certain language in its Notice of Proposed Rule Making on the Air Carrier Access Act. We were deeply concerned that air travel in the plane cabin would become very problematic for disabled persons who rely on assistance dogs the size of a retriever or larger unless some of the language was changed in Part 382, Appendix A.
If seeking more information on this issue, you may want to read the position paper titled "IAADP's Responds to the DOT on Seating Issue" as well as the letter from a DOT official concerning this advocacy effort, written in March 2006. These updates followed the widespread media coverage in Feb. 2006. We provide links below to some of that coverage.
You may also find the article that appeared in June 2006 in the online magazine, The Ragged Edge, which they titled "IAADP and DOT: David and Goliath" and the Reader Comment section to be engrossing. The article details the ups and downs of the long campaign by IAADP and other stakeholders in the assistance dog community to preserve access to the plane cabin for all assistance dog teams.
IAADP would like to gratefully acknowledge the help our community received from journalists and the public and our representatives in Congress in communicating our concerns to agency officials. We look forward to the publication of the Final Rule by the DOT in 2007.
IAADP Responds to the DOT on NPRM Seating Issue - March 8, 2006
DOT official, Bob Ashby, Discusses Consumer Concerns - March 3, 2006
Media - Television Interview by Mary Harris, KNBC - Feb. 22, 2006
Media - Newspaper Article by Jerry Wolfe - Feb. 24, 2006
"David & Goliath" - The Ragged Edge, disability rights magazine - June 1, 2006
IAADP Responds to the DOT on NPRM Seating Issue
(March 8, 2006)
The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), a consumer advocacy organization representing over 2000 disabled persons working with guide, hearing and service dogs, believes it has finally seen a "light at the end of the tunnel!"
In November 2004, the Department of Transportation (DOT) published its Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), which specifically invited comments on whether there should be any modifications to Part 382, Appendix A, concerning the transport of service animals by air.
IAADP submitted a letter of Public Comment that points out the proposed language in Appendix A could have a devastating impact on individuals whose disability requires the use of an assistance dog large enough to perform tasks like guiding blind people, wheelchair pulling and providing balance support.
IAADP took particular note of three sections in Appendix A of the NPRM. Two of them proclaim it would be an undue burden for the airlines to ask a passenger to share foot space with a service animal [e.g. the space on the floor in front of the non disabled passenger's seat]. The third, in response to the Question: "What if the service animal is too large to fit under the seat in front of the customer?", declared "If no single seat in the cabin will accommodate the animal and passenger without causing an obstruction, you may offer the option of purchasing a second seat, traveling on a later flight or having the service animal travel in the cargo hold."
IAADP's President, Ed Eames, Ph.D., stated, "if accepted and implemented, these rules would threaten the right of disabled people with large assistance dogs to travel by air. In response to the first two statements, IAADP members have always found neighboring passengers willing to share leg room with our guide dogs, or have someone else volunteer to shift seats. Most distressing, however, is the third item in which the DOT authorizes the airlines to give disabled passengers the choice of three unconscionable options if their assistance dog cannot fit in the space in front of a single seat. Having to pay for an extra ticket would make air travel prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthiest disabled passenger with a large assistance dog. The idea that we would be willing to ship our canine assistants in cargo disregards the bond between us and undercuts the concept that our dogs provide greater independence, mobility and safety. Finally, the last option, making us take a later flight demonstrates a view toward disabled people indicating we do not have to get to places on time to meet work and social commitments."
IAADP subsequently shared the news about its efforts to have the language in Appendix A modified with others. During the NPRM public comment period, DOT received more than 1100 letters supporting IAADP's request for changes. Other organizations, including Assistance Dogs International, Guide Dog Users Inc. and the National Association of Guide Dog Users got involved. GDUI and NAGDU passed resolutions condemning this language at their 2005 conventions. Many guide, hearing and service dog training programs also went on record seeking a modification of the language to preserve the access rights of their graduates, most of whom are partnered with large retriever size assistance dogs. Following the public comment period, many assistance dog partners contacted their federal elected representatives for support.
In opposition, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a subsidiary of Delta Airlines, submitted a public comment stating "ASA supports the department's position that, if no single seat in the cabin will accommodate the service animal and passenger without causing an obstruction, the carrier may offer the option of purchasing a second seat, traveling on a later flight or having the service animal travel in the cargo hold. Bulkhead space on regional aircraft is limited and providing additional seating at no charge would result in a significant revenue loss."
The other U.S. airlines did not choose to issue a statement publicly on this particular matter during the public comment period.
In January 2006, Mary Harris, a producer for Channel 4, KNBC in Los Angeles heard about the issue and came to the IAADP conference in San Diego where she interviewed several assistance dog partners. The story, aired on February 22, was also shown by a number of NBC affiliates across the country. The public outcry generated by this story, in addition to the previous advocacy efforts, resulted in a response from the DOT.
In a widely disseminated message from Robert Ashby, the Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Regulation and Enforcement at the U.S. Department of Transportation, we learned the DOT will rewrite the language about the seating of disabled passengers with large service animals in the airplane cabin to address the concerns that have been raised by our community.
Mr. Ashby stated in his letter of March 4, 2006, to Ginger Bennett of the Seeing Eye, Inc.:IAADP welcomes Mr. Ashby's clarification that this language which air carriers like Atlantic Southeast, a number of journalists and just about everyone in the assistance dog community took at face value has been misunderstood with regard to the intent of the DOT in putting it in Part 382, Appendix A. We hope Mr. Ashby's remarks can be taken as a promise to the assistance dog movement and the American public that disabled passengers will not face a second seat charge, be bumped to a later flight or have to put their dogs in cargo if their assistance dog's body occupies part of the floor space of an adjacent seat. IAADP does understand the DOT's position that a service animal should not obstruct a main aisle for reasons of safety and we would not have a problem with those three options if applied only to that very rare situation."We got 1100 or so comments protesting the paragraphs of the service animal guidance concerning options for handling situations in which a large animal impinges on a space that must remain open. In my view, these comments (and subsequent letters and statements to the media along the same line) were largely based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the guidance and the wording of the language itself. We were not proposing a rule change to impose new restrictions, costs, or burdens on service animal users, and the language does not, in my view, have that effect. That said, I think there are probably some clarifications of the language of the guidance that we can make to avoid the kinds of misunderstandings that have arisen, and as we work toward a final rule, I will be suggesting some wordsmithing changes to this effect."
In closing, we would once again like to urge the DOT to adopt the substitute language recommended by IAADP's President, Ed Eames, Ph.D., as official advice to in flight crews and counter agents. This language was endorsed through letters to the DOT and to members of Congress by hundreds of individuals, a number of disability related organizations, assistance dog training programs and the Resolutions passed by GDUI and NAGDU in July, 2005:Using this approach would not be a financial burden for the airlines or an inconvenience to other passengers. It would simply formalize current air carrier policies and be a reasonable accommodation. We believe it would clarify the issue in a way that is very much needed."You may offer the passenger sitting in a seat adjacent to the disabled passenger traveling with a large service animal a seat in the same class of service in another part of the cabin. If no seats are available in that class of service, you may ask for a volunteer willing to occupy the seat next to the disabled passenger requiring sharing of leg room. If no volunteer is forthcoming and seats are available in another class of service in another part of the cabin, you may ask the adjacent passenger or the disabled passenger to occupy a seat in that other class of service."
IAADP's Board of Directors
March 8, 2006
DOT official, Bob Ashby, Discusses Consumer Concerns
(March 3, 2006)
From: Bob.Ashby@dot.gov [mailto:Bob.Ashby@dot.gov]
Sent: Friday, March 03, 2006 12:02 PM
To: Ginger Bennett
Subject: RE: Service Animals Thank you
Here's the story, as I understand it (with the usual disclaimer that this represents my personal views, and should not be taken as an official statement from the Department:
In May 2003, DOT published guidance on service animal issues. This was an update and elaboration of q&A's I had written for the preamble of our 1996 amendments to the ACAA rule. The guidance was preceded by a lengthy consultation with disability and airline industry groups, and based on the recommendations of those grouops. It contained the language that is now the source of some contention. The point of the language is to spell out options for what a carrier can do in the (apparently rare) event where an animal is so large that it impinges on a space that, for FAA safety rule reasons, must remain open (e.g., an aisle). Among the suggestions were finding another space on the aircraft where the passenger and animal could sit together, offering the passenger the chance to purchase an adjacent seat, carrying the animal in cargo, or taking another flight.
In November 2004, we issued an NPRM to revise the ACAA rule, primarily to include coverage of foreign airlines. We included, without change, the existing service animal guidance as an appendix to the NPRM, so that all related material could be found in one place. This material would remain guidance it was not proposed to be made part of the regulation itself. The service animal provision of the regulation itself was proposed to remain substantively the same as the existing rule.
The NPRM also proposed requiring carrier web sites to be accessible to persons with impaired vision basically 508 standards. I can only wish that proposal, which is in my mind an important improvement in airline accessibility, had attracted the same amount of attention from the blindness community as the service animal guidance material. We got 1100 or so comments protesting the paragraphs of the service animal guidance concerning options for handling situations in which a large animal impinges on a space that must remain open. In my view, these comments (and subsequent letters and statements to the media along the same line) were largely based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the guidance and the wording of the langauge itself. We were not proposing a rule change to impose new restrictons, costs, or burdens on service animal users, and the language does not, in my view, have that effect.
That said, I think there are probably some clarifications of the languge of the guidance that we can make to avoid the kinds of misunderstandings that have arisen, and as we work toward a final rule, I will be suggesting some wordsmithing changes to this effect.
Meanwhile, there does not seem to be a real world problem: our consumer complaint office people tell me that in the 16 years that the ACAA rule has been in effect, including since May 2003, there have not any complaints of problems about how U.S. carriers treat service animals and the passengers who use them (there have been issues with foreign carriers denying transportation to service animals, based on foreign country policies and quarrantine rules).
FDR famously said, in his 1933 inaugural speech, that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself." I think this principle has some application to the current situation.
From: Ginger Bennett [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, March 03, 2006 11:23 AM
To: Ashby, Bob
Subject: Service Animals Thank you
Dear Mr. Ashby,
Thank you for taking the time to explain what is happening with the NPRM regarding service animals. I appreciate your help and look forward to an email message from you that I may in turn share with our dog guide users.
Ginger Bennett Kutsch
The Seeing Eye Advocacy Council
The Seeing Eye, Inc.
Phone 973 539 4425
Fax 973 539 0922
Media - Television Interview by Mary Harris, KNBC
(Feb. 22, 2006)
Media - Newspaper Article by Jerry Wolfe
(Feb. 24, 2006)
"David & Goliath" - The Ragged Edge disability rights magazine
(June 1, 2006)
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