Travelers with Disabilities

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President signs FAA reauthorization addressing travelers with disabilities

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On October 5th, the POTUS signed into law the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018. PVA played an instrumental role in the inclusion of several disability-related provisions, many of which are similar to those found in the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act (H.R. 5004/S. 1318).

The legislation includes an entire subsection devoted to improving the air travel experience of passengers with disabilities. Specific provisions in the bill include: 


  • A study of airport accessibility and airline training policies, including any best practices that go beyond the requirements of current civil rights laws.
  • A determination of whether in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems to allow passengers to fly while seated in their wheelchairs are feasible.
  • A requirement for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to work with stakeholders to develop an airline passengers with disabilities bill of rights.
  • An increase in the civil penalties that may be assessed by DOT for violations of the Air Carrier Access Act that result in injury to a passenger with a disability or damage to a passenger’s wheelchair or other mobility aid.
  • A requirement for DOT to establish an advisory council on the air travel needs of passengers with disabilities. This committee will advise the Secretary of Transportation on air travel issues impacting people with disabilities. In addition, the Advisory Committee will be responsible for reviewing regulations governing ticketing, pre-flight seating assignments, and stowage of assistive devices.
  • A review of the regulations ensuring assistance for passengers with disabilities, including a requirement that airline personnel and contractors who are providing personal assistance to passengers receive, as deemed appropriate, hands-on training about the proper use of aisle chairs or other relevant equipment.
  • A requirement for DOT to move forward in implementing reporting by large domestic airlines on the number of wheelchairs and scooters enplaned and subsequently damaged.


The legislation also includes provisions aimed at modernizing the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). One of those provisions requires a revision of the training for Transportation Security Officers on screening people with disabilities. TSA must work in consultation with disability and veterans organizations to revise their training requirements. TSA also has enhanced reporting requirements on issues such as the wait times for same gendered assistance to complete the screening process for passengers with disabilities.


PVA has already begun to work with DOT to ensure that the provisions outlined in the FAA Reauthorization are implemented in a timely and effective manner. In a release following final passage of the bill, PVA National President David Zurfluh stated, “We applaud the bipartisan passage of this bill. This is truly a move in the right direction and we will continue to support efforts to prohibit discrimination based on disability in air travel, whether that’s on Capitol Hill or in the courts.”


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