Air-Travel Disability Forum

Reprinted from PN April 2011

Department of Transportation's disability forum on the Air Carrier Access Act

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On January 19–20, 2011, the Department of Transportation (DOT) sponsored a disability forum on the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) for air carriers and people with disabilities. PVA staff explained ongoing problems for passengers who use wheelchairs. The primary focus was on appropriate seating options, treatment of wheelchairs checked as baggage, and lack of onboard bathrooms.

Other panelists spoke of lack of communication for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, problems for passengers with service animals, and major issues for individuals with cognitive impairments, e.g., autism or dementia.

More than 200 people attended, including representatives from a wide variety of foreign carriers. (Foreign carriers must comply with ACAA on flights to/from the United States.) Two airlines from the Middle East mentioned that approximately 30–40 wheelchair users are on each flight, meaning that number of people use wheelchair assistance to get to the plane. On one of those carriers, those passengers refuse to get out of the carrier’s wheelchairs until they board the plane. The carrier representative was surprised during the ACAA training to find passengers from other countries would rather act without staff assistance where possible.

Most foreign carriers found ACAA posed few problems. In fact, the European Union (EU) representative said they have uniform training and complaint processing for all European carriers; they found EU requirements were about the same and in some cases more stringent than ACAA.

TSA representatives attended, although not part of the forum. TSA was scheduled to be at PVA’s Advocacy/Legislation Seminar in March 2011.


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