DOT to propose lavatory-accessibility rule for smaller aircraft before year's end

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The DOT said it will propose a rule by Dec. 2 of this year that will address lavatory access for the disabled on single-aisle aircraft.

The statement was made by the department last week as part of a court filing in an action brought by the advocacy group Paralyzed Veterans of America.

"For over three decades, the United States Department of Transportation has continuously addressed commercial airlines' obligations toward individuals with disabilities, which include requirements for accessible lavatories on aircraft. Those efforts continue today," the DOT said in the fling.

Under the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, which took effect in July of that year, the DOT was required to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking related to lavatories on narrowbody aircraft by July 15, 2017. With that deadline having passed, Paralyzed Veterans of America has petitioned the court to require the department to comply with the mandate.

"Access to a restroom should be a basic human right, but for nearly two years the Department of Transportation has failed to follow Congress' mandate to move forward with a rulemaking aimed at addressing restroom inaccessibility on airplanes," the organization said in a statement last week.

Airlines are already required to provide a handicapped-accessible lavatory on widebody aircraft.

In its April 22 brief, the DOT said that it has always intended to issue a proposed lavatory access rule; however, progress has been slowed by a number of factors, including a lack of resources and the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.

The Trump administration halted rulemaking for most of 2017.

In November 2016, a DOT-impaneled committee consisting of disability groups and airlines set forth suggested specifications for lavatories on aircrafts with 125 or more seats, the DOT noted in the brief. The committee met with the understanding that its recommendations would be the basis for a proposed DOT rule "to the maximum extent possible," the department added.

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