New USA Laws Affect Tourism and Travel for People with Disabilities

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Andy Kennedy writes in  Access Anything’s The Traveler about several changes in regulations in the USA concerning recreation.  In July,  Attorney General Eric Holder signed final regulations revising the Department’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations , including its ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The Department has prepared fact sheets identifying the major changes in the rules which include those at recreational facilities, including swimming pools, playgrounds, golf courses, amusement rides, recreational boating facilities, exercise machines and equipment, miniature golf courses and fishing piers; as well as for such public facilities as courthouses, jails and prisons.   In October, the Twenty-First Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act came into effect.   This new law ensures that Americans with disabilities can more fully participate in society and enjoy all that new technologies have to offer–especially Internet-based and mobile services.

The law will make it easier for people who are deaf, blind or have low vision to access the Internet, smart phones, television programming and other communications and video technologies. It will also make sure that emergency information is accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision. In addition, $10 mil­lion per year will be allocated from the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services Fund for equipment used by individuals who are deaf-blind.   The law also applies to on-board entertainment in airline travel, which hasn’t been captioned for deaf travellers as of yet, despite the fact that all movies and TV shows must be captioned (the airlines actually remove them). “Finally, 30 million Americans with hearing loss will be equal to the rest”, writes Kennedy.  Meanwhile a new website called “Fix the Web” has launched in the U.K. which allows people to report inaccessible web sites after which volunteers will report complaints back to site owners.

Common issues that arise when disabled users surf the web include:

  • sites which are incompatible with screen readers
  • text that is difficult to read
  • websites that prohibit access for non-mouse users
  • over-fussy and distracting layouts.
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