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What Is the Airline Passengers With Disabilities Bill of Rights?

Airplane Wing
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on October 12, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week, President Donald Trump signed a package of legislation regarding the Federal Aviation Authority, including a landmark effort to protect the rights of passengers with disabilities on airlines.

The Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights will increase civil penalties for bodily harm to passengers with disabilities or damage to wheelchairs and mobility aids, as well as create an advisory committee to recommend consumer protection improvements. Here's a closer look.

Rights in the Air

While airports are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, air travel, on the other hand, falls under the Air Carrier Access Act. The proposed statute, will attempt to spell out the rights of passengers with disabilities during air travel, specifically:

  1. The right of passengers with disabilities to be treated with dignity and respect.
  2. The right of passengers with disabilities to receive timely assistance, if requested, from properly trained air carrier and contractor personnel.
  3. The right of passengers with disabilities to travel with wheelchairs, mobility aids, and other assistive devices, including necessary medications and medical supplies, including stowage of such wheelchairs, aids, and devices.
  4. The right of passengers with disabilities to receive seating accommodations, if requested, to accommodate a disability.
  5. The right of passengers with disabilities to receive announcements in an accessible format.
  6. The right of passengers with disabilities to speak with a complaint resolution officer or to file a complaint with an air carrier or the Department of Transportation.

Rights on the Ground

Among other provisions of the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, airline employees and contractors must undergo training on the bill of rights and the TSA must revise its training for screening passengers with disabilities to include proper screening techniques and account any particular sensitivities a traveler with a disability might have.

The Department of Transportation has also been directed to set a final rule for service animals on planes in, including a service animal definition and minimum standards. And the law calls for studies must be conducted of airport accessibility best practices and the feasibility of allowing in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems so that people could remain in their wheelchairs in flight rather than having to transfer to an airplane seat.

"I think it's a very good message to the Department of Transportation and the airline industry that Congress is very concerned about air travel for passengers with disabilities," Heather Ansley, associate executive director of government relations for Paralyzed Veterans of America told Disability Scoop. "We have a lot of good opportunities in here to reconsider regulations, get out education and get the department to have regular conversations about passengers with disabilities."

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