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Our Fight to Improve Air Travel Moves Forward
June 22, 2023 by Michael Lewis

Big news in our effort to make air travel more accessible for people living with a disability. Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously passed its version of legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Act (FAA).  Reauthorizing the FAA is a “must pass” bill and represents our best chance at making long-awaited accessibility advancements in air travel. The bill still needs to go to the House floor for approval.

Entitled the “Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act of 2023,” the bill included multiple accessibility provisions.  The bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on a 63-0 vote after a two-day markup. During this important committee markup, MDA’s Advocacy staff, grassroots advocates, and other disability rights organizations successfully fought for the inclusion of several other accessibility provisions that substantially improved the bill over its original version.

This was a huge victory, thanks to advocates like you.   

Together with these critical accessibility amendments included, the legislation will:

  • Mandate regular training for airline and airport personnel who assist passengers with disabilities.
  • Mandate regular training for airline personnel who load and stow wheelchairs for flights.
  • Require regulations to ensure aircraft boarding and deplaning processes are accessible.
  • Update standards for responding to passenger complaints related to accessibility violations, as well as broken, damaged, or lost wheelchairs.
  • Require the Secretary of Transportation to work with all stakeholders on setting a timeline to allow passengers with disabilities to fly in their wheelchairs.Require airlines to publish information about the size of aircraft cargo holds. 
  • Require the study of aircraft evacuation standards to ensure they account for passengers with disabilities. 
  • Require airline websites, flight information systems, ticketing areas, gate desks, and customer service areas in the airport to be accessible.  

The House bill is now very similar to a proposed Senate bill in that these provisions represent the biggest improvements to accessible air travel since the passage of the Air Carrier Access Act almost 40 years ago. 

However, our work is not over.  

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation still needs to consider its bill but has delayed their markup after lawmakers hit a snag over unrelated negotiations.

As the legislative process continues, House and Senate negotiators will need to work out any differences between their bills before final passage and sending it to the President’s desk.

Stay tuned for more updates and advocacy opportunities! If you haven’t yet, please urge your members of Congress to make air travel more accessible by going to MDA.org/AirTravel. 

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