Traveling with a Disability

If you or someone you know has a disability and is planning to travel by air it is a good idea to read the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) before taking flight. The ACAA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and requires U.S. air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities. Here are some of the ACCA’s main points:

· Airlines may not require advance notice that a person with a disability is traveling. Carriers may require up to 48 hours’ advance notice for certain accommodations that require preparation time (e.g., respirator hook-up and the transportation of an electric wheelchair).

· Carriers may not limit the number of disabled persons on a flight.

· Carriers may not require a person with a disability to travel with an attendant, except in certain limited circumstances specified in the rule. If a disabled passenger and the carrier disagree about the need for an attendant, the airline can require the attendant, but cannot charge for the transportation of the attendant.

· Airlines may not keep anyone out of a seat on the basis of handicap, or require anyone to sit in a particular seat on the basis of handicap, except as an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety rule requires. FAA’s rule on exit row seating says that carriers may place in exit rows only persons who can perform a series of functions necessary in an emergency evacuation.

· New aircraft with 100 or more seats must have priority space for storing a passenger’s folding wheelchair in the cabin.

· Aircraft with more than 60 seats and an accessible lavatory must have an on-board wheelchair, regardless of when the aircraft was ordered or delivered. For flights on aircraft with more than 60 seats that do not have an accessible lavatory, carriers must place an on-board wheelchair on the flight if a passenger with a disability gives the airline 48 hours’ notice that he or she can use an inaccessible lavatory but needs an on-board wheelchair to reach the lavatory.

· Airlines are required to provide assistance with boarding, deplaning and making connections.

· Disabled passengers’ items stored in the cabin must conform to FAA rules on the stowage of carry-on baggage. Assistive devices do not count against any limit on the number of pieces of carry-on baggage. Wheelchairs (including collapsible battery-powered wheelchairs) and other assistive devices have priority for in-cabin storage space (including in closets) over other passengers’ items brought on board at the same airport, if the passenger with a disability chooses to preboard.

· Wheelchairs and other assistive devices have priority over other items for storage in the baggage compartment.

· Carriers must accept battery-powered wheelchairs, including the batteries, packaging the batteries in hazardous materials packages when necessary. The carrier provides the packaging.

· Carriers may not charge for providing accommodations required by the rule, such as hazardous materials packaging for batteries. However, they may charge for optional services such as oxygen.

For more information on the ACAA visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s website at: www.usdoj.gov.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.