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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Action Alert: Contact Your Members of Congress Regarding FAA Reauthorization!

Air Travel Issues: Air travel for individuals with disabilities has long been an issue of frustration for many. Despite Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended), the Air Career Access Act of 1986 (as amended in 2009) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (as amended by the 2008 ADA Amendments Act), and stronger enforcement by recent Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) leadership, issues persist. It’s to the point where many in our community refuse to consider air travel, particularly persons using Durable Medical Equipment (DME) such as power wheelchairs, scooters, and Assistive Technology (AT).

Examples:

  • Refusal to permit support service animals to accompany passengers with disabilities or improper treatment of service animals
  • Inappropriate handling of DME and AT, to the degree that expensive repairs and replacement of DME or AT occurred. There are instances of it being sent to wrong locations, stranding individuals in airports for extended time periods.
  • Lack of disability etiquette or cultural competency with airport and airline and other support personnel (including security, TSAs, etc.). People with disabilities want to be treated in a manner consistent with non-disabled passengers. At times, some additional assistance may be needed, but it should be done a respectful manner.
  • Inaccessible airports. These continue to decline, but there are some sections where it’s not fully accessible or the accessible options are blocked due to renovations without a secondary option.
  • Poor treatment of individuals who have types of surgeries with metal implants. We understand the need for heightened security since 9/11. Nevertheless, heightened security should never be an excuse for mistreatment of passengers under any circumstances. This has probably occurred as much with seniors as well as those under age 60.

FAA Reauthorization (Due March 31, 2016)

After the current short term 6 month extension approved in September 2015, Congress must pass another FAA Reauthorization by March 31, 2015. There are two bills that have moved in the House and the Senate has another one. None of the current bills moving have addressed disability concerns stated in the previous paragraph. The current bills being considered are H.R. 4441 (6 years), H.R. 4721 (1 year), and S. 2644 (2 years). It’s possible that these bills will be conferenced (meaning brought together) to come up with a final product to address concerns of the Congress and the President in the next 2 weeks.

Take Action

Contact your members of Congress – both US House and Senate – to let them know that you want them to address disability concerns in the final version of the FAA Reauthorization. You can leave a short message, asking them address disability concerns (section 508) in the final version. Feel free to send an e-mail noting some the concerns stated in this article or your short version of own air travel story, noting why our concerns need to addressed.

AirAccess360: Website for Air Travel Stories

NCIL has endorsed www.AirAccess30.org. Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) launched the site in January to collect stories from the disability community about their air travel experiences.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). NCIL is working with PVA and the broader disability community to bring attention to the successes and failures in air travel for passengers with disabilities.

We need all people with disabilities to actively engage with us in this effort. Please share the www.AirAccess30.org website and encourage everyone to share their stories. We will be using these stories to increase advocacy around the ACAA and improve air travel for passengers with disabilities.

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