Accessible Air Travel: A history
The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) prohibits discrimination against passengers with disabilities by air carriers.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, does not address air travel.
For years, Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI) and others have introduced and reintroduced the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act to further advance accessibility in air travel, but it never became law.
In July 2022, the Department of Transportation issued the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights to “describe the fundamental rights of air travelers with disabilities under the Air Carrier Access Act and its implementing regulation, 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 382.” This bill of rights did not create a new law. Instead it clarifies and reiterates the regulations set forth by the ACAA. Accessible Air Travel: Today
By September 30, 2023, Congress must reauthorize the Federal Aviation Act (FAA). Changes can be made when an act is reauthorized, and advocacy groups are using this opportunity to call for greater accessibility in air travel.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is asking for certain changes that include amending the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) by including the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act and requiring Department of Transportation to continue investigating the feasibility of allowing passengers to remain seated in wheelchairs by using in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems.
The House passed its FAA Reauthorization bill this summer, but the Senate must still do the same. Then both chambers will need to negotiate a final bill to send to the President's desk. The House’s bill reauthorizes the FAA for five years. The House bill does not require airplanes to allow people with physical disabilities to remain in their mobility device. However, it does enact many improvements to accessibility and requires the Department of Transportation to complete a feasibility study of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems. See sections 701-724 of the bill for a complete list of provisions related to accessibility.
While the FAA Reauthorization bill will not accomplish everything our community wants for accessibility air travel, it would be a huge step forward to that goal. You can voice your support of these changes to the FAA by contacting your Members of Congress using this 5-minute action letter provided by the MDA.