Thirty-five years ago, Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which prohibits discrimination in air travel based on disability. Despite this prohibition, many disabled veterans and other people with disabilities still encounter significant barriers when traveling by air.
People with disabilities often find their access is undignified and unsafe. For example, there are no standards providing a path of travel onto the airplane for boarding and deplaning purposes for passengers who rely on wheelchairs and other assistive devices for mobility. Instead, many of these passengers must depend on airline employees or contractors to physically lift them from their customized wheelchairs onto a small aisle chair (a device on wheels the width of an airplane aisle), strap them on it, and then pull them on the plane to a passenger seat to travel by air. Too often, these personnel are not properly trained or equipped to assist passengers with significant disabilities. As a result, PVA members and other people with mobility impairments have been dropped and suffered serious injuries during the boarding and deplaning process.
In addition to the harm these passengers may encounter, their wheelchairs and other assistive devices may also be damaged in the process of being stowed. From January 2019 to December 2020, U.S. airlines mishandled (lost, delayed, or damaged) approximately 14,000 wheelchairs. A mishandled wheelchair means the loss of independence for the traveler who depends on it for mobility. It’s their legs. d) approximately 14,000 wheelchairs. A mishandled wheelchair means the loss of independence for the traveler who depends on it for mobility. It’s their legs.
Other problems passengers with disabilities encounter include no or very limited access to lavatories on single-aisle aircraft (the vast majority of planes that fly routes within the US, even cross-country); lack of seating accommodations that meet their unique needs; and limited communications access.
To ensure safe and equitable access for disabled veterans and all people with disabilities in air travel, Congress must amend the current law.
We ask that you sign a PVA petition requesting Congress pass the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act (H.R. 1696/S. 642) to ensure new airplanes are built using accessibility standards, easily removable barriers are eliminated on existing airplanes; enforcement options are improved; and overall safety during air travel for disabled veterans and all people with disabilities is greatly enhanced.