In a recent New York Times editorial titled, “Fear of Flying, for Good Reason,” editors stated that the airline industry “has become increasingly callous toward customers” as they relayed a litany of industry offenses against members of the flying public. The forced removal of a passenger aboard a recent United flight catalyzed the frustration of the editors and many passengers with modern air travel. Passengers with catastrophic disabilities routinely encounter problems in air travel even beyond the frustrations faced by the typical traveler.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) protects the civil rights of passengers with disabilities. It also prohibits discrimination based on disability in air travel. Although it has been three decades since the ACAA became law, too many travelers with disabilities still encounter significant barriers, such as damaged wheelchairs, delayed assistance, and poorly trained airline personnel and contractors.
To share the experience of these travelers, Paralyzed Veterans launched AirAccess30.org. AirAccess30org highlights personal stories of air travel discrimination and/or other mistreatment of persons with disabilities. Mr. Charles Brown, a Paralyzed Veterans National Vice President, illustrates how an airline’s “mishandling” of a wheelchair is a very serious incident that may lead to missed opportunities and even bodily harm. (Click here to read the full story.) Unfortunately, as noted in the Times’ editorial, the Department of Transportation recently delayed implementation of a rule that would have required domestic airlines to collect data on wheelchairs and scooters enplaned on their aircraft.
Paralyzed Veterans is working to improve access to air travel for all people with disabilities. To do this, we need passengers with disabilities to share their air travel experiences on AirAccess30.org. This will help policy makers better understand the types of problems people with disabilities regularly encounter. Congress also needs to pass improvements such as the referral of ACAA-related complaints to the Department of Justice, a private right of action, a disability bill of rights, and improved training for airline personnel and their contractors. Working together, we can improve access for passengers with disabilities.