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Department of Transportation Announces a Bill of Rights for Passengers with Disabilities

July 12, 2022
Source: Washington Post

The 10-item list spells out existing policies for fliers under the Air Carrier Access Act

The Department of Transportation on Friday announced its first bill of rights for travelers with disabilities.

The document does not establish any policy. It is a summary meant to help travelers “understand and assert their rights” under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and ensure the airlines and airports uphold them. The law, passed in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan, made it illegal for airlines to discriminate against passengers because of their disabilities. It applies to all flights to, from and within the United States.

“Today’s announcements are the latest steps toward ensuring an air travel system that works for everyone,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a news release. “Whether you’re a parent expecting to sit together with your young children on a flight, a traveler with a disability navigating air travel, or a consumer traveling by air for the first time in a while, you deserve safe, accessible, affordable, and reliable airline service.”

The bill of rights outlines 10 points, including the right to assistance at airports and on the aircraft; the right to travel with an assistive device or service animal; and the right to receive seating accommodations, among others.

Wheelchair damage and loss are frequent occurrences in airports these days. The Washington Post reported in July 2021 that the largest U.S. airlines have lost or damaged more than 15,000 wheelchairs or scooters since they were required to start reporting those numbers to the government at the end of 2018.

Kurt Fearnley, an Australian wheelchair racer and paralympian, tweeted last week that a fellow athlete’s chair went missing during a trip to Atlanta.

“A mate arrived in Atlanta a week ago. No race chair. No day chair. That means no life for the week,” he tweeted.

John Morris, the founder of, said the delivery of accessible services in airports has been significantly less reliable as airlines and airports cope with pandemic-related labor shortages.

While the bill of rights doesn’t provide new rights for disabled travelers, Morris said it does make the ACAA more accessible to passengers. It condenses lengthy regulations into a more easily digestible format — “one that disabled people can print out and reference during a trip,” he said.

In accessible travel, “information is everything,” Morris said, adding that without knowledge of the rights guaranteed by federal law, disabled travelers find themselves at the mercy of air carriers that have not prioritized accessibility.

“It is my hope that this document will lead travelers to be more demanding of proper treatment,” Morris said. “Though much more needs to be done to promote equal access in air travel.”

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