Action Center

Survey of Passengers with Disabilities Supports the Need to Improve the Air Carrier Access Act
June 4, 2022 by Heather Ansley

PVA has been involved in the effort to improve access to air travel for over 40 years. Our advocacy was the impetus for passage of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) in 1986. This law prohibits disability-related discrimination in air travel. The Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed four years later,  does not cover air travel. 

Last fall, PVA and other veterans and disability rights organizations designed and promoted an informal online survey. For approximately eight weeks, starting at the beginning of October, we collected traveler’s responses. Nearly 1,300 individuals responded to the survey, which covered a wide variety of accommodations for passengers with disabilities. Not all questions were applicable to all travelers due to differences in needed accommodations.

The survey provided a lot of helpful information and supported the anecdotal reports received from PVA members. In order to understand whether certain barriers had resulted in passengers with disabilities avoiding air travel, we asked them to select from a list of possible concerns. The over 1,000 respondents for this question most often selected the following three concerns:

  • Your personal safety in transferring from your wheelchair to an aisle chair and into an aircraft seat: 54 percent
  • Being able to use the aircraft's lavatory (restroom): 63 percent
  • Potential damage to your wheelchair: 74 percent

With regard to concerns about lavatory access, nearly 56 percent of respondents to whom the question was applicable said that not having access to a lavatory was by itself reason enough not to fly unless absolutely necessary. 

It is important to note that passengers with disabilities are customers and thus an important revenue base. Over three-fourths of all respondents said that they would fly at least a few times a year if the experience were improved. Fifteen percent said that they would fly monthly. Thus, addressing concerns with air travel is not only required for equity it is also a smart business decision. 

We still need more cosponsors for the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act ,which would make significant changes to improve the air travel experience of passengers with disabilities. To learn more, please read PVA's issue brief. To ask your members of Congress to support this critical legislation, please click here

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