The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued the first-ever Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights. The declaration does not issue new rights, but rather provides “a convenient, easy-to-use summary of existing law governing the rights of air travelers with disabilities” under the existing Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA), passed in 1986. A press release states that the summary aims to “empower travelers to understand and assert their rights” and help ensure “that U.S. and foreign air carriers and their contractors uphold those rights.”
“We know transportation can be a barrier to accessibility or be a way to break down barriers and allow everyone to reach their fullest potential,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a video announcing the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights. “The Air Carrier Access Act is one of America’s great civil rights achievements. The Administration and this department are committed to making good on the promises of this legislation.”
The 10 rights in the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights are:
- The right to be treated with dignity and respect
- The right to receive information about services and aircraft capabilities and limitations
- The right to receive information in an accessible format
- The right to accessible airport facilities
- The right to assistance at airports
- The right to assistance on the aircraft
- The right to travel with an assistive device or service animal
- The right to receive seating accommodations
- The right to accessible aircraft features
- The right to resolution of a disability-related issue
The Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) was developed by the DOT with the participation of disability rights advocates, representatives from the airline industry and members of the Air Carriers Access Act Advisory Committee. The ACAA and its implementing regulation, 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 382, makes it illegal to discriminate against passengers because of their disabilities.
The DOT also took steps to make family air travel easier by urging U.S. airlines to seat children 13 years and younger next to an accompanying adult at no extra charge. The notice was issued by the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP), a unit within the Office of the General Counsel. From November, the unit will begin monitoring airlines’ practices and policies to decide what steps to take, including potential new regulations.
The notice offered airlines several suggestions on how to ensure children are seated next to an accompanying adult including allowing adjacent seats for children to be reserved free of charge at time of booking and, for airlines with open seating policies, allow adults with children to board the plane first.
For more information on the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, visit transportation.gov/airconsumer/disabilitybillofrights.
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