Communications Access Improved At San Francisco International Airport For Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Travelers

San Francisco, CA – December 14, 2005 – Deaf and hard of hearing travelers will receive equal communications access to San Francisco International Airport programs and services under a settlement announced by all parties involved.

Plaintiffs in the case were represented by Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit law center based in Berkeley, California, that specializes in cases brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and by California Center for Law and the Deaf (CalCLAD), a non-profit committed to the protection and advancement of the legal rights of deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

As part of the settlement, the Airport will roll out a visual paging system that will include an additional 80 visual paging monitors at the Airport’s domestic and international terminals. The Airport currently has 46 monitors. The monitors will enable deaf and hard of hearing passengers to have equal access to the information broadcast over the public address system, including courtesy pages and emergency information. Travelers who are deaf will also be able to use a special number posted at white courtesy telephones and TTY phones to page family or friends with whom they are trying to connect at the Airport. The monitors will also provide an alternate means for hearing passengers to obtain important Airport information.

Colin Piotrowski, one of the original plaintiffs in the case, explained, “With these new changes, SFO is going to be one of the best airports in the Country for people who are deaf. The visual paging system is a great example of universal design, because people who can hear will use it too.”

Jim Brune, Interim CEO of Deaf Counseling and Referral Agency (DCARA), a Bay Area non-profit that provides numerous services to the deaf community, praised the Airport’s commitment during the settlement process. “The Airport took the time to listen to the concerns expressed by the deaf community, and then took action to improve its programs and services where they could do a better job. We’re quite pleased with the settlement.” Richard Ray, president of the California Association for the Deaf echoed those sentiments, “SFO is now going to be a model for other airports for deaf accessibility.”

“Providing excellent customer service to everyone who uses the Airport is one of our highest priorities,” said Airport Director John. L. Martin “This settlement is going to make it possible for the Airport to do an even better job of providing the full range of services to meet all of our customers’ needs.”

As part of the settlement, SFO also agreed to make a number of changes to enhance its existing services, such as increasing the number of TTY telephones, improving the visibility of its signage, and revising the information in its handouts and on its website about the accessibility features of the Airport. The Airport will also make remote video interpreting services available to passengers in the event of an emergency situation. The settlement is limited to services provided by the Airport and does not extend to communication access provided by the Airlines at check-in counters and gates.

SFO is the 12th largest airport in the United States and the 21st largest in the world. More than 30 million passengers fly through SFO every year.

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