In a welcome move for United States Airline Passengers living with disabilities (including non-US citizens visiting the US), we are witness to a new expansion to the Airline Bill of Rights.
Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation has just (July 2022) announced the official Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights. Developed in collaboration with U.S. Department of Transportation, Disability Rights Advocates, Airline Representatives, and committee members of the Air Carrier Access Act this bill seeks to detail the fundamental rights of air travelers with disabilities so that those living with disabilities get the same level of service as everyone else. This bill addresses some of the existing rights, specifying explanations of rights, and adding to them. While many airlines have tried to hold themselves to certain standards, it is nice to finally have a framework of rights detailing what many people with disabilities have been inquiring about for years.
Appropriately the first concern being addressed is the treatment of those with disabilities. Even if someone’s disability is inconvenient, or they act or look different then a staff member is used to, doesn’t mean they should be disrespected. This first section does quite well to elaborate this, even detailing airline employees training in such situations so to treat everyone with equal standing.
But respect is just the tip of the iceberg, rights have been addressed in many more ways. Here is a summary of some of the rights that may affect how you next travel:
- The right to aircraft information such as capabilities and limitations (e.g. getting info on cabin storage, movable armrests, accessible lavatory, etc.).
- The right to receive information in an accessible format, especially on bigger flights (e.g. ways to access info for those with visual or hearing disabilities: kiosks, personal assistance, etc.).
- The right to timely assistance from properly trained assistants (one nice note to see here specifically states: “the airline cannot leave a passenger unattended for more than 30 minutes in a wheelchair or other device, in which the passenger is not independently mobile,” so you shouldn’t be ditched in a loaner chair to wait!).
- The right to have proper, timely, and prompted access to moving around the airplane (e.g. you may still need to be early but should have the right to additional time or assistance to board, stow accessibility equipment, be seated, to/from lavatory, etc.).
- The right to travel with an Assistive Device or Service Animal (such as medical devices, which doesn’t count against carry-on limits).
- …and more!
It is very nice to see many of the concerns of those living with a disability being addressed, and hopefully this will make life a little easier for travelers. With any luck these rights will continue to progress forward soon, incorporating things like space for those who use wheelchairs to stay seated and chair strapped down for the flight or more ergonomic/comfortable seating requirements for long flights, making it even more comfortable for those of us who can’t get up to stretch mid-flight. Let’s all keep looking forward to the days of easier travel for everyone.
For more information or if you want to download the latest version of the Bill of Rights, use this link to the U.S. Department of Transportation website: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/disabilitybillofrights
Published in Travel