On October fifth, the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018 was signed into law! This act includes a number of key reforms to protect and resolve some of the issues that disabled passengers encounter.
Thanks to the United Spinal Association and other national disability rights groups, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 that prohibits commercial airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities, received a much needed overhaul. Taking the lead on inserting many of the key components from the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act into the FAA funding bill was Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.).
“In order to keep America’s promise of full equality for all, we must break down the barriers that individuals with disabilities and our veterans face when they travel,” said Senator Baldwin.
These reforms include:
• Increase civil penalties for bodily harm to a passenger with a disability and damage to wheelchairs/mobility aids.
• Require that the Department of Transportation review and revise regulations ensuring passengers with disabilities receive dignified, timely, and effective assistance.
• Creation of a Advisory Committee, which identifies barriers to air travel for individuals with disabilities and recommend consumer protection improvements.
• The Advisory Committee will review airline practices for ticketing, preflight seat assignments, and stowing of assistive devices.
• A DOT mandate to develop an Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, describing rights of passengers with disabilities and responsibilities of air carriers.
• Conduct studies on in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems, in coordination with disability advocates, air carriers, and aircraft manufacturers.
“It’s a big win,” says Alex Bennewith, VP of government relations for United Spinal. It’s true, a this bill has been a long standing fight for disability rights advocates and is one of the largest legislative victories for the disabled community.