FAA Hears Input on Airport Relief Areas for Service Animals

Do you find airports to be frenzied, stressful places? Do you feel on edge as you wait in security lines, then rush to your departure gate to make a connecting flight?

Just think how the environment feels to hard-working service animals.

In response to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) request for input from stakeholders, Guide Dog Users Inc. (GDUI) is recommending that all American airports provide service animal relief areas within the airport's "sterile" areas - aka, the passenger areas beyond the security checkpoints.

Laurie Mehta, president of GDUI, told Mobility Management, "Currently, disabled travelers who need to offer normal relief to their service animal must generally exit the secured area and go to whatever designated area an airport has for service animal relief."

Those areas are usually outside the airport's sterile zones, Mehta explains: "This generally involves a 30-minute trip to get to the relief area and then the trip back through security to return to the travel gate. In other words, this is not practical or possible for anyone to do while making flight connections, and it is not at all reasonable for a disabled traveler to accomplish while providing reasonable relief to their service animal when one factors in the extra time needed pre-flight due to security screening procedures."

GDUI, Mehta says, considers such relief areas to be a "reasonable accommodation" for people with disabilities who travel with service animals.

How important an issue is this to the disability community? The Service Animal Relief Areas in Airports Conference will take place March 3 at FAA Headquarters. The conference is free to attend, and FAA representatives, along with design engineers and service animal professionals, will be participating.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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