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June 15, 2004

Groups says airport fails to treat deaf travelers equally

From: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL - Jun 14, 2004

The Associated Press

BURBANK, Calif. An advocacy group filed a class-action lawsuit against Bob Hope Airport on Monday, claiming the facility failed to provide basic access for deaf and hard-of-hearing travelers using the airport.

The Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness said deaf and hard-of-hearing people have been shut out of the exchange of critical information at the airport due to a lack of TTY telephones and monitors displaying boarding and paging information.

"The 30 million people living in this country who are either deaf or have experienced some degree of hearing loss are tired of waiting for institutions such as airports, which serve the general public, to voluntarily provide the equal access that is required under the law," attorney Kevin Knestrick said.

While many airports lack adequate services and infrastructure to assist hearing-impaired travelers, Bob Hope Airport is among the worst, attorney Sid Wolinsky said.

Deaf and hearing-impaired people often miss flights because the frequent changes in takeoff times and gate assignments are only announced audibly and not displayed on video monitors, Wolinsky said.

Airport officials said they had not yet seen the suit but are willing to work with Disability Rights Advocates, the nonprofit law firm leading the suit. Still, the issue is complicated by the number of different agencies at the airport, said airport spokesman Victor Gill.

For example, the individual airlines decide what information is displayed at boarding gates, and security guidelines are set by the federal government, Gill said.

"There is not one easy turn-key solution here," he said. "It is a fairly extensive discussion."

The Burbank airport serves about 4.5 million passengers each year.

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