My name is Rene Requenez. I am a web designer for the Department of Rehabilitation at the University of Texas - Pan American (UTPA) and am also the founder Access Granted, a non-profit organization whose goals revolve around empowering people to become more productive, more independent, and better socially integrated into the world around them through the use of technology and special services. As a person who has lived with Muscular Dystrophy since birth, I am very aware of the impact that transportation can have on a person who has a disability, which is why I applaud your organization's efforts toward making transportation on public vessels more accessible.
I read briefly over your January/February 2005 newsletter regarding the "Draft for Public Vessels" and I noticed that there was no mention of passenger airplanes. Is there a reason why passenger vessels are not a part of this draft? Transportation via passenger airplanes (those that can accommodate at least 100 people) is probably the most popular method of travel among people, at least among business professionals. I was recently invited to attend an assistive technology conference some 800 miles away from where I live. The only viable way of travel would be to fly to the destination; unfortunately, I develop respiratory problems if I am in a sitting position for more than a couple of minutes, so flying is currently out of the question. Resolving my problem would seem simple; all I need is a flat surface upon which to lay my body's 4 foot, 50 pound frame in a horizontal position. Nevertheless, I am not allowed to just lay on the floor somewhere due to safety concerns and other issues that the airplane company is likely to bring up. Personally, I don't understand why a law can't be made to force passenger airplane companies to open 1 or 2 rows of seats and place some type of bench where people who have great difficulty sitting down could have the option of laying down instead.
If you have any comments or ideas on how I could become a participant in one of your studies or sit in on one of your committees, I would be interested in doing so. I have a lot of ideas and a lot of experience in dealing with disability issues and technology, so I would love to help in some way. In any case, please keep me informed on what efforts have been made toward making other types of transportation more accessible.
Thanks for your time and attention.