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

An Update on Air Travel from the NCIL Transportation Subcommittee

Air travel has been a challenge for people with disabilities for years. Some of the major issues include:

  • Inaccessible websites for travel or kiosks
  • Non- accessible airports
  • Lack of disability etiquette for airport staff, airline personnel, TSAs and those transporting individuals to the airport (hotel buses, taxis, Transportation Networking Companies (Uber, Lyft), trains / high speed rail and private transportation bus companies
  • Lost or damaged Durable Medical Equipment, Assistive Technology, or other equipment
  • Much longer waits than non-disabled customers
  • Disregard for personal privacy and rights, including unnecessary ‘pat downs’ for the sake of safety (worse since 9/11)
  • Stated disability or ‘special needs’ assistance which can often make things worse than if you came without prior notification (pre-check, etc.) despite policies and enforcement that are to make it easier
  • Mistreatment of service animals
  • Lack of adequate seating or foot space
  • No or limited access to bathrooms on planes
  • Issues with tie downs for wheelchairs

NCIL Efforts:

NCIL has been at work on several areas of public policy and related implementation regarding air travel for individuals with disabilities. While it’s fair to say that NCIL’s efforts are disability-focused, others benefit from as well, including seniors and others that may not consider themselves members of either of these communities. 

These efforts include:

What You Can Do Now:

  • File complaints if you experienced any of the issues noted above to the airport, airlines, TSA, transportation entity that brought you to the airport or Federal Department of Transportation for air travel
  • Contact your members of Congress to let them that you want disability-related concerns address in the FAA Reauthorization that is currently being crafted NOW in Congress (due to be completed by mid-July)
  • Join the NCIL Transportation Subcommittee
  • Become involved in transportation stakeholder groups in your state and regions-bring up air travel and disability related issues
  • Attend airport or local authorities’ board and /or public meetings where air travel is the primary focus and bring up disability related concerns
  • Become involved with training the various organizations that support air travel on disability etiquette: airlines staff, airport personnel, TSAs, booking agents, bus companies, taxis or Transportation Networking Companies (Uber, Lyft, etc.) and others who have a role

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