A new Bill of Rights for Airline Passengers with Disabilities, announced by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, will affect travel for 70 million Americans.
The Bill of Rights for Airline Passengers with Disabilities is being greeted with enthusiasm by event organizers who are concerned with accommodating special needs of their attendees throughout the experience of their events — including getting there and returning home afterward. If you or any of your staff, exhibitors or attendees has a disability, you know that flying to a meeting or event can be an exercise in frustration, or worse. While there already are laws on the books under the Air Carrier Access Act and its implementing regulation, 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 382 that outline the rights of passengers with disabilities and how airlines should accommodate their needs, the reality hasn’t always lived up to the letter of those laws.
This new summary, the Bill of Rights for Airline Passengers with Disabilities, released July 8, 2022, is designed to both reiterate what those rights are and to remind airlines, and their contractors, of their responsibilities to accommodate those with disabilities.
As Buttegieg said in a video announcing the Bill of Rights for Airline Passengers with Disabilities, “So many of our most important moments in life depend on being able to get where you need to go. It is so central to our personal and professional lives. And if you’re not able to travel solely because somebody has decided it is too hard to accommodate you, then when the world almost literally shrinks.
“It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s not smart for a country to constrict the lives of almost 70 million Americans.”
The Bill of Rights, which applies to individuals who have a physical or mental impairment that permanently or temporarily impacts a major life activity such as walking, hearing, or breathing, applies to all flights of U.S. airlines, and to flights to or from the United States by foreign airlines. Each summary in the Bill of Rights for Passengers with Disabilities includes citations and links to the full legal definition of the right.
Here are the 10 rights included in the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights.
1. The Right to Be Treated with Dignity and Respect
2. The Right to Receive Information About Services and Aircraft Capabilities and Limitations
3. The Right to Receive Information in an Accessible Format
4. The Right to Accessible Airport Facilities
5. The Right to Assistance at Airports
6. The Right to Assistance on the Aircraft
7. The Right to Travel with an Assistive Device or Service Animal.
8. The Right to Receive Seating Accommodations
9. The Right to Accessible Aircraft Features
10. The Right to Resolution of a Disability-Related Issue
Buttegieg acknowledged that transportation can be a barrier to accessibility, or it can be a way to break down barriers and allow everyone to reach their fullest potential. Calling the Air Carrier Access Act, which passed into law 35 years ago, “one of America’s great civil rights achievements,” this new summary is designed to “making good on the promises of this legislation.” The intent, he added, is to “empower air travelers with disabilities to understand their rights, and to help ensure that air carriers and their contractors uphold those rights.”