Congratulations to all of you for helping to change air travel for the better for people with disabilities.
As of the Fall of 2018, new consumer protections were signed into law by the President to:
• Increase civil penalties for bodily harm to a passenger with a disability and damage to wheelchairs or other mobility aids.
• Require that the Department of Transportation review, and if necessary, revise regulations ensuring passengers with disabilities receive dignified, timely and effective assistance at airports and on aircraft.
• Create the Advisory Committee on the Air Travel Needs of Passengers with Disabilities to identify barriers to air travel for individuals with disabilities and recommend consumer protection improvements.
• Require that the new Advisory Committee review airline practices for ticketing, preflight seat assignments and stowing of assistive devices, and make recommendations as needed.
• Mandate the DOT develop an Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, in consultation with stakeholders, describing rights of passengers with disabilities and responsibilities of air carriers.
• Study in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems, in coordination with disability advocates, air carriers and aircraft manufacturers.
As of 2018, new reporting requirements were put in place so airlines have to report mishandled wheelchairs and scooters separately from mishandled baggage. Just from December 4 – December 31, 2018, the number of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters was listed at 701, multiply that by 12 months of the year, and you get over 8,000 cases. And civil rights complaints from January to December 2018 were listed at 828 for disability complaints and 96 for discrimination complaints. As our President and CEO James Weisman states, as long as discrimination of people with disabilities exists anywhere, United Spinal will continue to fight for equal access and equal rights for all.
Our Congressional champions Senator Tammy Baldwin D-WI and Representative Jim Langevin, D-RI 2nd are both championing air travel rights for people with disabilities again with the introduction of two new bills, Senate bill S. 669 and House bill H.R. 1549, the Air Carriers Access Amendments Act of 2019.
The new Air Carrier Access Amendments Act of 2019 will:
• Strengthen ACAA enforcement by requiring referral of certain passenger-filed complaints to the Department of Justice and establishment of a private right of action;
• Ensure new airplanes are designed to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities by requiring airlines to meet defined accessibility standards. These standards will address safe and effective boarding and deplaning, visually accessible announcements, seating accommodations, lavatories, and better stowage options for assistive devices;
• Require removal of access barriers on existing airplanes to the extent that it is readily achievable, easily accomplishable, and may be done without much difficulty or expense; and
• Improve the overall safety of air travel for passengers with disabilities.
United Spinal Association wholeheartedly supports both these bills, but we need you, your family and friends to call your Members of Congress and ask them to please co-sponsor S. 669/H.R. 1549, the Air Carriers Access Amendments Act of 2019.
Read The Position Paper (PDF): United Spinal Supports ACAAA 2019