Air Travel Set to Become More Accessible for People with Disabilities

New law boosts accessibility for air travelers with disabilities, mandating staff training, facility upgrades, and exploring in-flight wheelchair securement.

A new law signed by President Joe Biden promises significant improvements for travelers with disabilities. The comprehensive legislation, part of a larger reauthorization of federal aviation programs, introduces a range of changes aimed at enhancing accessibility and protecting the rights of passengers with disabilities.

One key provision mandates training for airline employees before they assist passengers using aisle chairs or handle wheelchairs and other mobility devices. The law also requires airline websites, apps, and kiosks to be fully accessible and directs the Federal Aviation Administration to reevaluate airplane evacuation procedures to ensure all passengers can exit quickly in an emergency.

Passengers with disabilities will now have the option to request seating accommodations, such as being seated with a companion, having extra legroom, or being near a restroom. Additionally, the legislation ensures that people are aware of their ability to reserve onboard wheelchairs.

Medium and large airports will be obligated to install or maintain at least one universal changing station in every terminal, designed to accommodate caregivers assisting people of all sizes who cannot use the restroom independently. Signage indicating the location of these changing stations will also be required. The law establishes a new pilot program offering grants to airports for accessibility upgrades.

Within a year, the secretary of transportation must submit a “strategic roadmap” to Congress assessing the feasibility of securing wheelchairs on commercial flights. If deemed possible, the secretary will have two years to produce a report analyzing the economic and financial implications of seating arrangements that could accommodate wheelchairs during flight.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a wheelchair user herself and a strong advocate for many of the disability provisions, described the measure as “the most significant effort by Congress in over a decade to make flying safer, easier and more accessible for passengers with disabilities.”

Steve Cullen, board chair of All Wheels Up, a nonprofit that has supported research on including wheelchairs on aircraft, emphasized the importance of the legislation’s requirement that training for workers assisting with aisle chairs must include instruction on “how to effectively communicate with, and take instruction from, the passenger.”

Cullen noted that passengers who use wheelchairs face higher personal risks when traveling by air, largely due to the need for physical transfers. He stressed that to protect passengers’ health, safety, and dignity, airport and airline personnel assisting wheelchair users must be trained on standards of care and best practices, which includes listening to passengers with a disability regarding their well-being.

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elektriker bamberg
25 days ago

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